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Fifth South Carolina Prisoner Sentenced in “Sextortion” Scams Targeting Military Members

by Chuck Sharman

On April 21, 2023, South Carolina prisoner Dexter Lawrence, 27, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a “sextortion” scam that targeted U.S. military personnel. Two co-conspirators also previously received federal sentences for money-laundering. Two other state prisoners were sentenced for blackmail in a similar scheme that led a young soldier to commit suicide. All must complete sentences they are already serving with the state Department of Corrections (DOC) before they begin their new terms.

The prisoners ran the scam from their cells from 2015 to 2017, and it worked like this: Using contraband cellphones to access the internet, they created fake accounts on dating sites, pretending to be females as they targeted on-duty U.S. military personnel and enticed them to request nude photos. It’s unclear whose photos the prisoners sent. But after they did so, an accomplice phoned the recipients, pretending to be an irate father claiming the photos were of his underage daughter. Of course, the “dad” was not so angry that he couldn’t be bought off. [See: PLN, Apr. 2019, p.63.]

Threatened with arrest and dishonorable discharge on child pornography charges, some 25 servicemen ponied up a total of $60,004.09 to Lawrence, prosecutors said. Another conviction was secured in May 2021 for one of Lawrence’s co-conspirators, Wendell Wilkins, 32; he got a 66-month sentence for ripping off another 25 victims of $74,000. A third prisoner who played the role of the “father” in the scheme, Jimmy Dunbar, Jr., 37, was sentenced to a 46-month term in April 2019, after taking $29,598 from 17 victims. Sentenced along with him were Andreika Mouzon, 29, and Flossie Brockington, 29, two un-incarcerated “mules” who collected $34,886.73 from 19 service members successfully targeted in the scam.

In addition to the three prisoners sentenced on federal money-laundering charges, two others involved in an identical scam were convicted in state court of blackmailing Jared Johns. The U.S. Army veteran and father of two committed suicide in September 2018, moments after receiving a demand for $1,189 from the two incarcerated scammers. John Dobbins, 63, pleaded guilty in May 2022 and was sentenced to a seven-year term. Carl Smith, Jr., 47, pleaded guilty the same month and was sentenced to four years in August 2022.

In all, more than 350 military men lost some $350,000 in the scams, according to investigators from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command and the U. S. Marshals Service, as well as the state DOC and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Sources: WSPA, WXLT