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Inverness father of two pretended to be woman to extort money from married man

By Court Reporter

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A father of two pretended to be a woman on a dating site and then extorted money from a married man who was communicating with him.

Inverness Sheriff Court was told that 28 year old James McLaughlin of Greenwood Place, Inverness, used the false name to register on the site in mid January, 2020.

As the online conversations continued, photographs were exchanged but the social intercourse took a sinister turn when McLaughlin demanded money.

Fiscal depute David Morton told Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood that on January 23 the man received a message that James McLaughlin was not the who he had claimed to be.

"McLaughlin gave his bank details and asked for £1500. If it was not paid, he said he would expose the exchanges with the man's family members," he said.

Mr Morton said McLaughlin gave his bank details and the man paid in £1000 before contacting the police.

Sentence was previously deferred for a background report and Sheriff Fleetwood said he was "having difficulty finding a reason not to impose a jail sentence".

He added that the report indicated McLaughlin's remorse but criticised him for not paying back any of the money since then.

"He spent it yet he was in a position to repay it," the Sheriff commented to defence solicitor advocate Neil Wilson.

Mr Wilson replied: "I suspect the remorse came when he was caught. This started as a drunken prank. He has a tendency to go on short binges."

Sheriff Fleetwood sentenced McLaughlin, who admitted a charge of extortion, to 150 hours of unpaid work and placed him on two years of social work supervision.

He added: "This was a calculated attempt to obtain money from an innocent person by deceit. You have done nothing to repay the money so I will also make part of the order you pay £1,000 in compensation."

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