CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A 37-year-old South Carolina man was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in a scheme to extort and defraud military members which operated out of the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

Dexter Lawrence was serving a 22-year sentence for armed robbery and carjacking when he smuggled smartphones into a South Carolina Department of Corrections facility and used the internet to join dating websites, according to evidence presented in court this week.

Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina said Lawrence then targeted 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,” officials said. “Lawrence and others then threatened to have the military members arrested or dishonorably discharged unless they paid money.”

Officials say service members transferred funds to Lawrence, through his co-conspirators, totaling $60,004.09 between March 2016 and May 2017.

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,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“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 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.