A Sterling man and two teenagers have been charged in an extortion scam using a popular messaging app. Authorities also believe there could be more victims.
Yogesh Sharma, 56, was was charged with felony conspiracy to commit extortion. He is being held at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center on no bond.
The two teenagers were taken to the Loudoun County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of extortion. Because of their underage status, their names cannot be released.
As part of their scheme, the trio posed as a woman on the anonymous messaging app Kik and messaged with a 25-year-old Lansdowne man. The conversations began in January and at one point the victim was advised he had solicited a prostitute and needed to pay monies to avoid being arrested, LCSO officials said.
The victim delivered monies to the suspects on multiple occasions and to multiple locations, including the suspects’ home in Sterling. The victim contacted authorities in February.
Members of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search warrant on the suspects’ home and on a storage facility in Herndon on Feb. 14. All three suspects were taken into custody that night, LCSO officials said.
Scammers have used Kik to engage in inappropriate conversations with victims and then threaten to post screenshots of the conversation or pictures the victims have shared on the internet unless the victim gives them money, LCSO Public Information Officer Kraig Troxell said. Though cases like this are rare, he warned the anonymous nature of the app makes it conducive for similar abuses.
“It’s unusual that the suspects came from the same state, much less the same community as the victim,” Troxell said. “Usually when we see these types of cases, the suspects are from overseas.”
The case remains under investigation and LCSO urges additional victims to come forward.