Two Orlando-area men were sentenced Thursday in federal court for pretending to be Homeland Security agents and entrapping victims in an online dating scam, federal prosecutors in Florida announced.
John Pierre Mack III, 26, of Kissimmee, and David Augusta Jones III, 27, of Orlando, received four years and nine years, respectively, in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. They pleaded guilty in January, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
The defendants ensnared their victims — many of them older or in the military — by responding to online dating posts with a picture of woman thought to be an adult, according to court documents. Victims would exchange photos and engage in conversation with the defendants, who posed as the woman.
The defendants would then contact the victims, identifying themselves as Homeland Security agents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said. They told the victims that the woman from the dating site was younger than 18, according to court documents.
Victims were told they were facing charges of soliciting a minor and warrants had been issued for their arrest, prosecutors said. To further the scheme, the defendants, while posing as agents, sent paperwork to victims with the official Department of Homeland Security seal, a judge’s name and legal terms related to child exploitation. The defendants used email addresses containing variants of “child exploitation” and “cybercrimes center” in their correspondence, prosecutors said.
People contacted by the defendants were told they could avoid jail time if they paid a fine, prosecutors said. Victims were even directed to retail locations to wire fines and fees the two defendants took turns picking up payments, according to court documents.
All told, the defendants collected at least 61 extortion payments totaling $79,847, with Jones receiving 30 payments totaling $66,684, prosecutors said. Payments ranged from $200 to $1,900 per transaction, with some victims sending multiple extortion payments, according to court documents.
Four others previously pleaded guilty for their role in the scheme. Last month, Ronnie Rolland Montgomery, 28, of Orlando was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, Ashley Ferrell, 26, of Orlando was sentenced to 10 months in prison, and Dillion McDowell, 26, of Orlando, and Amaryllis Pagan, 20, of Kissimmee will be sentenced in April and May, respectively.
Among the six defendants, the scheme netted more than $340,000 in profits, federal prosecutors said.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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