Parents of vet who committed suicide after sextortion scheme want tighter rules on contraband


FOUNTAIN INN, SC (WSPA) –  The parents of an Army veteran who took his life last September, say the reason he did it was because he was targeted in a sextortion scheme.

Jared Johns, 24, received text messages and phone calls from inmates at Lee Correctional Institution before he committed suicide, according to his mother Kathy Bowling, and father Kevin Johns. 

“It’s not fair that people behind bars were able to target a veteran, a young veteran and try to get $1,189 out of him,” Bowling said Monday. 

Investigators came forth to media in November 2018, detailing a sextortion scheme where inmates had access to online dating websites through contraband cell phones.

Fifteen inmates were indicted for posing as the parents of underage girls and threatening to “expose” military personnel for allegedly eliciting nude photographs from their child. 

Johns’ parents explained that the veteran had suffered from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan, which is why they believe he ultimately took his own life. 

Now they hope to change the rule that prohibits cell phone “jamming,” or technology that blocks calls out of prisons. 

Although the technology has been deemed a safety concern, Kathy and Kevin said they strongly believe inmates should not be able to communicate with and target those on the outside.

“Prisoners in our state prisons have all the luxuries of not being in prisons,” Kevin Johns said. “They have cell phones, now they have tablets that the prison system has given them. And they abuse them.”

Investigators say 442 servicemen from all military branches across the country had been targeted in this sextortion scheme since 2017. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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