South Carolina inmates managed to blackmail 442 U.S. service members from across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines out of more than $560,000 as part of a sprawling sextortion ring, Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials announced on Wednesday.
The NCIS announcement, which marks the end of the first phase of the multi-year Department of Defense joint investigation dubbed 'Operation Surprise Party,' found that South Carolina inmates "used various social media platforms and dating sites posing as a female, exchanging pictures with service members" in a practice known as catfishing, according to NCIS.
"After the service member responded, prisoners would then assume a role of the female's father, who claimed the female was a juvenile," NCIS explained in a new release. "Prisoners would also assume the role of a police officer or someone in a position of authority, demanding money, on behalf of the family, in exchange for not pursuing charges through law enforcement channels."
The existence of the investigation was first revealed in an Army Criminal Investigation Command warrant submitted to a federal court on Oct. 3, but the scope and scale of the sextortion ring were previously unreported.
According to NCIS, more than 250 people "are being investigated and face potential future prosecution" for their role in the scam, ranging from guests of the South Carolina Department of Corrections to "outside civilian associates."
"We do to 10-12,000 felony investigations annually and we see all kind of things, but this is a different sort of crime," Army CID public affairs chief Christopher Grey told Task & Purpose. "The players, the circumstances are different than the normal felonies we deal with."
CID had previously cautioned soldiers to be on guard for sextortion scams where criminals “use any dishonest method to make contact with potential victims and then attempt to blackmail them," as Special Agent Daniel Andrews, head of CID’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit, said in an Army release. “To avoid falling prey to a sextortionists never send compromising photos or videos of yourself to anyone, whether you know them or think you know them."
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."