Cyber criminal warning after man who 'catfished' victims online pretending to be a female escort is jailed

A ‘catfish’ who posed as an online escort before blackmailing his victim has been described as ‘ruthless’ by police after he was jailed.

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 12:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 12:34 pm
Colin Hawkins, 27, admitted blackmail

Colin Hawkins, 27, extorted more than £1,000 from a customer after setting up a fake profile on the Newcastle page of an escort site.

Hawkins sent nude photos of an ex-girlfriend to a man in exchange for a £20 payment – and then threatened to tell the victim’s partner of their exchange unless he agreed to hand over regular payments.

Scared that he would be exposed, the man – who cannot be named for legal reasons – paid a four-figure sum over three days to the online predator.

Hawkins, of Baltimore Avenue, Sunderland, admitted a charge of blackmail and was jailed for two years and three months yesterday (Monday) at Newcastle Crown Court.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Detective Constable Stuart Kelly, of Northumbria Police, said: “Hawkins showed a prolific and ruthless streak as he lured in his unsuspecting victim and then blackmailed him over a number of days.

“Hawkins embarked on his crime spree online purely for his own financial gain. Through his actions, he clearly poses a substantial risk to the public, and I hope this sentence sends out a strong message to cyber criminals that they are not above the law, and will be caught.

A court heard Hawkins set his ‘honey trap’ in August 2018 when the victim began texting what he believed was an escort and asked for photos.

After paying £20, the man received photos – but then had a change of heart, deleted the images and blocked the number.

But Hawkins swiftly texted the victim using a different phone and threatened to inform his partner – who he had found on social media - if the number was not unblocked.

The defendant then ordered the man to transfer him £100, followed by two further sums of £500 and £400.

Having emptied his bank account, the victim sent a screenshot to Hawkins proving he had no further funds – but was ordered to transfer another £300 as soon as he had been paid.

At that point, the man contacted police and Hawkins was subsequently arrested.