An online scammer who tricked women and teenage girls into sending him intimate photos of themselves has been jailed for two and a half years.
Samuel Ward, 27, from Newmarket in Suffolk, offered to send his victims large amounts of money in exchange for the images.
Investigators said one victim was offered £10,000 for 10 images, but he only paid her £1.
Ward admitted offences including fraud and making indecent images of children.
Adam Priestley, senior investigating officer with the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: “Ward relentlessly targeted teenage girls and young women online with promises of payments he never intended on sending, nor had the means to do so.”
The inquiry began after a 17-year-old girl in Florida reported what had happened to US law enforcement agencies.
Investigators discovered she was contacted by two Instagram accounts in May 2020 and was offered a “weekly allowance of $500 for sexual images and videos of her”.
An additional message from one of the accounts showed a doctored image of a bank account balance of £98,606.80 – it included a message that said it was “Just to prove I have the funds”.
Multiple social media accounts
British investigators identified Ward as the person controlling the Instagram accounts and found he had contacted a further 40 women and girls – 33 of whom were in the UK, six in the United States and one in Ireland.
Many had rejected his proposal, however officers identified 18 victims of his scam, including four who were under 18.
He approached multiple victims on social media including Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder from 2019 to 2021, using the same method.
Officers found Ward’s bank statements that revealed he was in overdraft for the two-year offending period.
He confirmed he had made payments of £3 and £1 to two of his victims.
Ward appeared for sentence at Peterborough Crown Court having pleaded guilty to 19 charges, including fraud, possession of an article for use in fraud, making indecent images of children and malicious communication.
He was also handed a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.