4 charged with participating in a scheme to defraud users of a dating website by duping them into believing that they sent sexually explicit images to underage children

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Four individuals were indicted on Oct 31 following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

David Jones, David Duwayne Taylor, Kristin Knight, and Destiny Bishop are charged for their alleged involvement in a scheme by which they fraudulently duped their victims into believing that they had sent sexually explicit images to underage children and faced criminal prosecution if they did not pay to avoid involvement by law enforcement.

Taylor, Knight, and Bishop were presented in federal court in South Carolina on October 18 and 19, 2018. Bishop was presented Oct. 26 and Knight was presented Oct. 29 in White Plains federal court. Both were released on a personal recognizance bond. Jones was presented on Oct 31. Taylor is expected to appear in federal court in White Plains in the next several days.

“These individuals allegedly chose their targets specifically to create vulnerabilities, seeking simply to make a profit through deceit and extortion,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “Anyone can fall victim to a criminal scheme, so it is important to remain diligent in text messaging and online communications, and to contact law enforcement if criminal activity is suspected.”

“As alleged, these defendants scared their victims into sending them money by fraudulently convincing them they were in peril of criminal prosecution for child exploitation. This alleged fraud was not only cruel, it was also profitable for the defendants – until they were arrested,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman.

As alleged in the complaint unsealed Oct. 18 in White Plains federal court, beginning in August 2017, HSI began identifying various individuals who reported that they had been extorted after using a dating website (the “Website”). In general, each victim reported communicating on the Website with an individual the victim believed was an adult.

Then, after the victim received and shared sexually-explicit photos with the person the victim believed was an adult, the victim was contacted by a person who claimed that the victim had communicated with an underage minor and needed to pay the minor’s family to prevent law enforcement involvement. The victims made payments via money transfers through Western Union and Walmart and/or through the purchase of Green Dot MoneyPak cards.

Jones, 28, of Greenville, South Carolina, Taylor, 28, of Easley, South Carolina, Knight, 28, of Greer, South Carolina, and Bishop, 21, of Greenville, South Carolina, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Investigations on these cases are ongoing.