Man posed as woman, downloaded nude photos to catfish, blackmail friend's colleague

A person using a phone. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
A person using a phone. (PHOTO: Getty Images) (Tero Vesalainen via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — After hearing that his friend’s colleague had recently received a large insurance payout and had a weakness for women, a man decided to catfish the victim in order to extort money from him.

Sarvanan Ellankovan, 36, posed as a woman and sent the 51-year-old victim nude photos downloaded from the internet. In return, the victim sent Sarvanan nude photos and videos of himself, which Sarvanan then used to extort $10,000 by posing as the fictitious woman’s husband.

Sarvanan was jailed two years and three months on Monday (22 November) and sentenced to one stroke of the cane. The Malaysian pleaded guilty to one count of extortion, with another count of a similar nature considered for sentencing.

His compatriot Rajakumar Sumugam, who conspired with him to carry out the scheme, has not been dealt with by the courts yet. Rajakumar, 50, was colleagues with the victim and friends with Sarvanan.

On 14 November last year, Sarvanan, Rajakumar and a few other Malaysian workers were drinking and chatting. Rajakumar and the other workers spoke about the victim’s “weakness for women” and that he had recently received a large insurance payout. Hearing this, Sarvanan asked Rajakumar for the victim’s phone number, intending to impersonate a woman to prank the victim.

A few days later, Sarvanan and Rajakumar conspired to extort money from the victim. On 24 November last year, Sarvanan sent a message via WhatsApp, pretending to be a woman named “Priya”. “Priya” flirted with the victim and pretended to send him nude photos of herself, when in fact, the photos had been downloaded from the internet.

In return, the victim sent eight nude photos and three intimate videos of himself, with his face and genitals exposed. Sarvanan saved the files to a thumb drive.

On 1 December last year, Rajakumar told Sarvanan to call the victim and pretend to be “Priya’s” husband, to extort money from the victim.

Using a Malaysian phone number, Sarvanan called the victim, identifying himself as “Saran”, the husband of “Priya”. He confronted the victim for flirting with his wife and demanded $10,000 to settle the matter. Sarvanan also threatened to spread the victim’s nude photos and videos.

Fearful, the victim transferred $4,000 over two transactions to Sarvanan’s account in December.

On 8 December last year, Sarvanan demanded that the victim pay another $5,000.

When the victim said he did not have the money, Sarvanan threatened that “Priya’s” younger brother was a gangster and would look for him. There was no more communication between the two after this.

Of the $4,000 he received, Sarvanan gave $1,100 to Rajakumar. He has not made any restitution to the victim.

For extortion, Sarvanan could have been jailed between two and seven years, and caned.

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