(CMR) A 34-year-old Jamaican woman living in New York is facing federal charges for a catfishing scheme in which she used multiple online identities to target rich, prominent men for extortion.
Sakoya Blackwood is charged with cyberstalking, extortion, and interstate communications with the intent to extort. According to an indictment, Blackwood, who also goes by Koya Blackwood Fews and Lila Cohen, among other aliases, began the alleged scheme in March of this year.
She allegedly targeted an unnamed CEO of a publicly traded company, identified in documents only as Victim-1. Blackwood reportedly used online communications to elicit compromising materials from the victim, then attempted to blackmail him over multiple months.
“Blackwood engaged in a campaign of harassment against Victim-1, sending numerous intimidating and threatening text messages. Blackwood also used threats of economic and reputational harm from the release of the sexually explicit communications and photographs in an attempt to obtain payments from Victim-1,” the U.S Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said in a statement.
According to court documents, when Blackwood was arrested on Wednesday, authorities executed a search warrant at her home in the Bronx that she shared with her mother, her brother, and her daughter. There, they found six different ID cards. In her wallet, she had four with her photo on them: an Arizona driver's license in the name of Louren Hennessy, a California driver's license in the name of Susannah Forest, an Arizona driver's license in the name of Harper Dean, and a New York City ID card in her own name. Authorities also recovered a hospital badge in the name of Jessica Bottomley, M.D., and a New York State ID in the name of Nataya Romeo.
Authorities believe Blackwood used the aliases in her professional life, too. Prosecutors claim she used the alias Lila Cohen to apply to several jobs and has used several different addresses and educational backgrounds on her resumes.
Blackwood's scheme was described as showing “sophistication and technical acumen, and an ease in adopting different identities, skills the government argued she could use to flee the charges.
Blackwood has no history of legal employment as she lacks legal immigration status, having arrived in the U.S. from Jamaica in 2002 on a tourist visa.
She also reportedly attempted to extort many other potential victims, all wealthy and high-profile men.
Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director of the FBI's New York field office, has appealed for more victims to come forward.
“Most people hope for a personal human connection in life, and scam artists twist that desire into illicit schemes to steal more than hearts. We believe Blackwood used tactics we allege in this indictment to blackmail and extort money from other victims. We are asking those people to contact us so we can help them but also to ensure no one else ever falls victim to Blackwood’s alleged deception,” he said.
If convicted of all three charges, Blackwood, who is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, could face 27 years in prison.