Shannon Lee, 21, from Netley Abbey near Southampton, would pose as another woman, whose photos she stole from the internet, before luring men into sexual and embarrassing conversations
A ‘vindictive conwoman who made more than £100,000 on a sugar daddy website by ‘catfishing’ married men before blackmailing them has been jailed for nearly three years.
Shannon Lee, 21, from Netley Abbey near Southampton, would pose as another woman, whose photos she stole from the Internet, before luring men into sexual and embarrassing conversations.
Lee would then threaten to expose the conversations to wives, family members and friends if her six victims refused to pay large amounts of money into her bank account, Southampton Crown Court heard.
In total, police found payments of more than £100,000 in Lee’s account – including £40,000 from one man alone, who she had targeted for two years.
Lee, who would conduct these traps from the comfort of her own home, has now been jailed for 32 months for charges of blackmail and fraud.
Judge Peter Henry described her as ‘cold callous and vindictive’ and explained that her actions had been to fuel her own thrills and excitement.
The court heard how Lee would contact the men through Las Vegas-based SeekingArrangement.
The site is centred around ‘sugar daddies and sugar babies’ – a type of relationship often started and maintained over the internet for the financial benefit of younger women.
The website, which describes itself as a place where ‘beautiful and successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships’, has more than 2.6 million so-called sugar babies.
In recent years it has become extremely popular for university students in the UK as an extra form of income and a way of paying tuition fees.
The court heard how Lee would contact the men through Las Vegas-based SeekingArrangement. Pictured: An advert for the site
The court heard, Lee, using the name of ‘Sophie’ and pictures of a women which she had stolen from the internet, would strike up a friendly conversation with her targets.
She would then request a fee from the men to continue the chat, something prosecutor Jane Terry described as ‘common practice’ on SeekingArrangement.
Ms Terry said Lee would later move the conversation on to encrypted mobile messaging application Whatsapp – on which messages can only been seen by the sender and receiver.
Ms Terry said: ‘She began engaging in sexual conversation via Whatsapp, before demanding money from her victims.
‘If she didn’t receive the money, she said she would disclose the messages to family or friends.’
The court heard Lee would send menacing messages to her victims in order to pressure them to pay up including one with the phrase ‘tick-tock, time is almost up.’
‘Get the transfer done and I might discuss things further’: Vile messages Lee sent to her victims
Lee: ‘Show me you’re a decent human being, get the transfer done and then I MIGHT discuss things further and give you that information but until then the threat stands in place.
‘I’ll not reply now. I’ve told you how things will happen. You’ve got until 11.22pm.
‘It doesn’t matter who. I’ve told you enough. I don’t care what’s criminal and what’s not I need to keep a roof over my head, now I’ve given you an option, I’ll be in touch later after 11.22pm.
‘You’ll make the transfer or you’ll be exposed.’
Victim: ‘Exposed as what?’
Lee: ‘You know what I’m talking about. Now I’m done talking, if the transfer is not made by 11.22pm you’ll be exposed. Goodbye..’
When one victim tried to negotiate a lower the price, claiming he could not pay, Lee replied: ‘I’m not bartering with you. I don’t want to have to do it [expose you], but I will, believe me.’
One victim, who was targeted by Lee for almost two years from 2016 to 2018, paid more than £40,000 into her account.
Ms Terry said the victim was subjected to both ‘begging and cajoling’ by Lee, who used both threats and ‘sob stories’ to encourage them to pay up.
Lee was eventually brought to the attention of the authorities after one of her victims, a foreign student in the UK, came forward to police to report himself as a victim of blackmail.
Lee, who gave her personal bank details to her victims was then investigated by police who were able to identify and contact a further five victims.
Lee gave a ‘no comment’ interview to police, but later admitted to one count of fraud and six counts of blackmail.
Sentencing Lee, Judge Henry said: ‘You got these men to engage in sexual conversations, which at the very least would be embarrassing to them or their family members and friends.
‘You said you would expose these men in an embarrassing way. You were putting pressure on those men to come up with money and you were cajoling them.
‘Blackmailing is an extremely serious and nasty offence. You were being cold and calculating and became vindictive.
‘You told the probation service that when you were doing this you were enjoying the thrill of putting pressure on these men.
‘You admitted you were being greedy and excited when you were scamming these people. You were controlling these men, that’s why this is a very serious offence.’
In recent years SeekingArrangement has become extremely popular for university students in the UK as an extra form of income and a way of paying tuition fees
Ms Terry said the money gained by fraud amounted to more than £28,000 she had conned out of one of her victims through her ‘sob stories’.
And the six counts of blackmail related to more than £3,800 she demanded from her victims, of which they had paid £2,500.
Ms Terry added that total payments of £100,000 were found in her account during the police investigation.
In mitigation, Berenice Mulvanny said Lee was a teenager when her offending began and she had been ‘depressed, anxious and lacking guidance.’
She added that jobless Lee was ‘deeply remorseful’ and ‘bitterly regretted’ her actions.
Lee will serve half of her sentence before she is allowed out on licence.
MailOnline has contacted SeekingArrangement for comment.