COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina M. Rhett DeHart on Wednesday announced the sentencing of an inmate for his role in “a scheme to extort and defraud military members.”
Wendell Wilkins (32) of Spartanburg was serving a 12-year sentence for attempted armed robbery when he began the scheme, which he ran out of prison. He recruited several other inmates to the scheme as well.
Investigators found that using smuggled smartphones, “Wilkins joined internet dating sites, posed as young women thereon, and began communicating with military members… Wilkins sent nude photographs of young females to the military members and solicited nude photographs and other personal information in exchange.”
Then, “Wilkins and others acting at his direction… posed as the father of the young woman, claiming that the young woman was underage and that the military member was in possession of child pornography.”
Threatening dishonorable discharge, Wilkins demanded money from the victims.
At least 25 military victims were targeted by Wilson, who received at least $74,000 between February of 2016 and January of 2018.
Wilson is among numerous inmates within the South Carolina Department of Corrections that participated in the scheme, which targeted over 300 military members nationwide and extorted upwards of $350,000.
The extortion led some victims to commit suicide.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Defense Criminal Investigative Services (DCIS), Air Force Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command (CID), United States Marshals Service, South Carolina Department of Corrections, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigated the case.
Wilkins was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison and 36 months of supervised release following completion of his 12-year state prison sentence. He is currently being held at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston.