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Press Release

South Carolina Inmate Sentenced to Federal Prison for Role in Military Sextortion Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA — Dexter Lawrence, 37, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in a scheme to extort and defraud military members that was operated out of the South Carolina Department of Correction (SCDC).

Evidence presented to the Court showed that while serving a 22-year sentence in SCDC for Armed Robbery and Carjacking, Lawrence smuggled smartphones into SCDC and used the internet to join internet dating websites.  Once on the internet dating websites, Lawrence would target young men who were in the military while posing as a young woman.  Lawrence would solicit nude photographs and once the photographs were received, Lawrence, and others, then posed as the father of the young woman, claiming that the young woman was underage, and that the military member was in possession of child pornography.  Lawrence and others then threatened to have the military members arrested or dishonorably discharged unless they paid money.

From March 2016 until May 2017, due to this extortion, service members transferred funds to Lawrence, through his co-conspirators, totaling $60,004.09, which investigators traced to at least 25 victims.

United States District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks sentenced Lawrence to 70 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of court-ordered supervision.  This sentence will be served after Lawrence completes his 22-year state prison sentence.  There is no parole in the federal system.

“Contraband cell phones enable inmates to continue their criminal activity behind bars,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs. “In this case, the defendant used them to prey on victims who have bravely served our nation.  Our office is committing to working with SCDC and our law enforcement partners to address the threats posed by smartphones in our prisons.”

“This sentence confirms DCIS’ pledge to hold criminals who target our service members accountable for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Dillard, Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office. “We are steadfast in our commitment to protecting our Warfighters and will work aggressively with our investigative partners to accomplish this mission.”

"Mr. Lawrence was leader in a criminal network that specifically preyed on military service members through schemes that degrade military readiness and ultimately threaten our national security," said Special Agent in Charge Erin Carmichael of the NCIS Carolinas Field Office. "NCIS thanks the U.S. Attorney's Office and our law enforcement partners for their substantial efforts to keep our service members and their families safe from criminal predators."

"Aggressively investigating organized crime impacting our military servicemembers is a top priority for the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division," said Special Agent-in-Charge Justin Link of the Army Criminal Investigation Division's Cyber Field Office. "Mr. Lawrence's sentence should serve as a deterrent for those seeking to take advantage of our nation's fighting forces. Army CID will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to protect our servicemembers."

“Cellphones are the most dangerous weapons in prisons today because they allow inmates to prey on innocent victims and continue committing crimes,” said Bryan Stirling, Director of the S.C. Department of Corrections. “I urge Congress to support a hearing on the Cellphone Jamming Reform Act, which would allow states to use technology to jam cellphone signals in state prisons.”

This case was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Katherine Orville and Amy Bower prosecuted the case.


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Brook Andrews, First Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office,, 803-929-3000

Updated April 21, 2023

Financial Fraud