SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — A 33-year-old Spartanburg man was sentenced to over five years in federal prison for his role in a military sextortion scheme operated out of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).
U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart said Wendell Wilkins, who was serving a 12-year sentence in SCDC for attempted armed robbery, used smuggled smartphones to join dating sites and posed as young women and began communicating with military members.
Wilkens then sent nude photos of young women to military members while soliciting nude photos and other personal info in exchange. Wilkins, among others working at his direction, would then pose as the father of the young woman while claiming the young woman was underage and the military member was in possession of child pornography. Wilkins would then threaten to have military members arrested or dishonorably discharged unless they paid money.
The extortion resulted in service members transferring $74,000 in funds to Wilkins from February 2016 through January 2018. Investigators traced the extorted funds to at least 25 military victims.
Wilkins was one of several inmates at SCDC prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in S.C. for taking part in the extortion scheme. The Attorney’s Office said more than 300 military members across the United States were victims of the scheme, and the total amount extorted exceeded $350,000. Multiple military members committed suicide after falling victim to the scheme.
Wilkins was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison and 36 months of supervised released after pleading guilty to money laundering in connection to the scheme. Wilkins will serve the sentence following the completion of his 12-year state prison sentence.
The case was investigated by NCIS, IRS, DCIS, Air Force office of Special Investigations, CID, the Marshals Service, SCDC, and SLED.