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Catfishers fried for sextortion scam

US authorities have charged two people with fraud, cyberstalking, and money laundering charges related to a massive catfishing operation

A woman from Delaware is facing federal charges for allegedly operating an international catfishing and sextortion scam.

The DOJ alleges that 28 year-old Wilmington resident Hadja Kone was the mastermind behind a scam operation that saw herself and others extort money from victims in the US, United Kingdom, and Canada.

According to US attorneys, Kone and co-conspirator Siaka Ouattara, of Cote d’Ivoire lead a ring of catfishers that primarily sought out young men in North America and the UK. Each were arrested in their respective countries of residence.

Pretending to be attractive young women in search of like-minded men, the crew would bait their unsuspecting marks into online relationships and seek out saucy video chat sessions.

When the would-be suitors responded to their overtures by sending their own intimate photos and videos, the crew would capture the footage and then use it to extort payment under threat of sharing the clips with the target's friends, family, and employers.

According to attorneys, the scheme was effective to the tune of millions of dollars.

"Through the scheme, Kone, Outtara, and others attempted to extort approximately $6 million from thousands of potential victims," the DOJ said.

"And successfully extorted approximately $1.7 million from those victims, using CashApp and ApplePay accounts alone."

While conning lonely men into paying out hush money may not seem like a serious crime on its own, the scheme is in fact very illegal and the pair will face a litany of criminal charges in US Federal Court.

Kone and Outtara both stand to face charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and to send interstate threats, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, money laundering, and wire fraud.

The charges each could carry a maximum of 20 years behind bars, though in practice even convicted defendants usually wind up serving a fraction of that time once sentencing and appeals are played out.