Sunderland blackmailer set up 'honey trap' to extort cash from victim
A "ruthless" blackmailer who set up a "honey trap" to extort over £1,000 from a client who used an online escort service has been put behind bars.
Jobless Colin Hawkins, 27, set up a fake account on the Kommons Escort site, then blackmailed a customer who had bought three nude pictures from him for £20.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the victim emptied his bank account to pay off Hawkins in a bid to keep his exchange with the escort a secret from his partner and was left in "considerable anxiety and terror" that he would be exposed.
Hawkins, of Baltimore Avenue, Sunderland, admitted blackmail and has beenjailed for 27 months.
Mr recorder Andrew Dallas said blackmail "preys on the fears and embarrassment of victims" and that Hawkins had masterminded a "cynical and premeditated trap".
The judge told him: "I suppose the press will call it a honey trap you set up, looking to catch someone and you did in fact catch someone."
The court heard the victim was a low paid public worker who went into debt to buy Hawkins' silence.
The judge said Hawkins' crime was "despicable" and that he was "ruthless" in his behaviour.
Prosecutor Mark Guiliani told the court the victim had rang a telephone number from the Kommons site last summer and initially received no reply but then started to chat via text.
Mr Guiliani said: "He believed he was conversing with an escort by text. He was, in fact, conversing with the defendant."
The court heard the victim had initially asked if the escort did "meet ups" but then decided he did not wish to meet and asked if she did "video chats".
Mr Guiliani added: "He then decided he did not want to pursue that and then asked her for photographs and was told to pay £20 into a bank account. The sort code for which the escort provide.
"When he paid the £20 he was sent three nude photographs."
The court heard the client "instantly regretted his actions" and deleted the photographs and blocked the escort's phone number.
But Mr Guiliani added: "Within a few minutes he received a text message from a different mobile number, stating if he did not unblock that number within five minutes 'I will tell...' and named the partner of the complainant.
"It was apparent to the complainant immediately that the defendant had trawled through social media profiles and found the name of his partner.
"The complainant asked the defendant what they were talking about. The defendant responded, sending a message stating unless £100 was paid into the bank account he would inform the partner of the complainant about what had taken place."
The court heard the victim paid the cash then was ordered to pay another £500, followed by another £400.
The victim eventually sent Hawkins a screenshot to prove his overdraft was now at its limit but was told he must sent another £300 on his next pay day.
The court heard at that point the victim went to the police and Hawkins was traced and "warned" in the hope it would bring his ordeal to an end.
However, three days later Hawkins contacted his victim again and claimed the escort involved had been just 15 and demanded another £50, which the worried complainant paid before going back to the police.
Hawkins was arrested and claimed the victim "liked to be blackmailed" and had a "fetish" for it.
He later pleaded guilty to the offence.
The victim told police: "This has been a terrible ordeal for me. I have never experienced anything like this before in my life and feel very nervous and afraid of being contacted again by this person.
"Every time my phone rings or I receive a message I feel it could be him."
Fiona Lamb, defending, said Hawkins "deeply regrets" what he did and now realises the impact his threats would have had on the victim.
Miss Lamb said a prison sentence would result in Hawkins, who has anxiety and depression, missing out on the birth of a baby with his girlfriend, which is due in September.
She added:"This offence can be said to be completely out of character. He deeply regrets his actions and what has happened.
"He was motivated by financial gain. He was addicted to cannabis at the time, he wasn't working, he didn't have enough money to pay for his drug addiction therefore he decided to commit this offence to try and get some money."
Miss Lamb said Hawkins has stopped using cannabis and "wishes he could take it all back".