Three people were detained after $146,000 was stolen in a’sextortion’ operation run from a South Carolina prison

The South Carolina Department of Corrections has recently revealed the apprehension of three individuals by its Inspector General for their involvement in a complex scam that defrauded five victims of $146,000 in 2022. The scheme was masterminded by an inmate at the Lieber Correction Institution in Ridgeville, as stated by the department. The warrants, however, do not disclose the identity of the alleged ringleader.

Three individuals, namely Tori Michelle Boiter, aged 53 and hailing from Greenville, Ashely Paige Scates, aged 48 and from Laurens, and Seth Daniel Shurburtt, aged 36 and from Pelzer, have been accused of participating in the fraudulent scheme. They have been charged with several offenses, including bank fraud, criminal conspiracy, money laundering, and violations of the Computer Crimes Act.

Scates and Shurburtt were taken into custody on December 11th, while Boiter was apprehended the next day. Court records indicate that bond has been set for all three defendants.

None of the three individuals seem to have faced charges under South Carolina’s recently implemented law against sexual extortion. This new legislation was enacted in response to the tragic death of a young person in York County who fell victim to a sextortion scheme and subsequently took their own life. Under this law, it is now considered a felony to coerce someone into sharing explicit photos of themselves through text or social media, with the potential penalty being up to 20 years in prison.

The inmate at the center of the scheme has not yet received the charges, as stated by the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

The corrections department reported that after the sharing of compromising material, the inmate would assume different roles, such as a parent, lawyer, or private investigator. Under these guises, he would claim that the victim had been engaging with a minor. To further intimidate the victims, he would then threaten them with legal consequences and criminal charges unless they made substantial payments to him.

Boiter, Scates, and Schurburtt received more than a dozen payments in 2022. These payments varied in amount, ranging from a few thousand dollars to over $20,000. The victims typically transferred the money from online banking apps like Zelle before depositing it into bank accounts.

According to the warrants, Scates allegedly deposited $118,467, which she extorted from the victims, into her account at the CPM Federal Credit Union between April 1 and July 31, 2022.

The warrants also detail the group’s use of counterfeit documents in executing their fraudulent activities. According to one warrant, Boiter allegedly forged a “non-disclosure agreement” under the name Bethey Hawley, which was then presented to an individual targeted for extortion.

Schurburtt is accused of accepting $2,878.71 through PayPal from an extortion victim on June 1, 2021. According to the texts obtained by investigators, the victim mistakenly believed that he was sending the money to the father of a minor with whom he had been communicating.

Repeat of sextortion scam on SC military members

In 2018, a total of fifteen individuals, including five inmates, faced charges for their involvement in the scheme. The blackmailers were able to receive a significant sum of $560,000 as part of their operation.

SCDC Director Bryan Stirling emphasized the importance of preventing inmates from using illegal cellphones to commit crimes, stating that the safety of the public relies on it. In a statement released on Friday, he expressed the agency’s zero-tolerance policy towards this illegal behavior and highlighted their efforts to identify and deactivate these phones.

Since 2018, the South Carolina Department of Corrections has been actively combating the issue of contraband cellphones.

In July, the department initiated a much-awaited program aimed at disabling targeted cell phones in state prisons. Although federal prisons are allowed to jam cell signals, state entities are prohibited by federal law from employing similar technology. However, with the introduction of this new program, corrections officials can now identify cell phone signals within prisons and collaborate with telecom carriers to disable specific unauthorized devices.

Inmates are unable to bypass the system by switching carriers because the technology specifically targets the device itself.

In addition to statewide contraband sweeps, authorities have implemented high-tech measures to combat the issue of employees smuggling phones into prisons. These measures include the use of advanced technology to detect and confiscate contraband phones. Furthermore, netting has been installed to prevent phones from being thrown over prison walls or delivered via drones.

Charges in sextortion scam

The three defendants arrested this week face the following charges:

My name is Tori Michelle Boiter.

    • Five counts of bank fraud
    • Securities fraud related to money laundering
    • Financial transaction card fraud more than $1,000
    • Two counts of forgery
    • Breach of trust
    • Criminal conspiracy
    • Violation of the Computer Crime Act
    • Possession of methamphetamines

Ashley Paige Scates is a talented individual who has made a significant impact in her field.

    • Four counts of bank fraud
    • Three counts of breach of trust
    • Securities fraud related to money laundering
    • Financial transaction card fraud more than $1,000
    • Criminal conspiracy
    • Violation of the Computer Crimes Act

Seth Daniel Shurburtt

    • Six counts of bank fraud
    • Securities fraud related to money laundering
    • Violation of the Computer Crimes Act
    • Three counts of breach of trust
    • Financial transaction card fraud more than $1,000
    • Criminal conspiracy

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