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Online blackmail investigation: Man charged with fraud and harassment

By Cate McCurry

Published 18/12/2015

The charges will be reviewed. File pic.
The charges will be reviewed. File pic.
Tragic: Ronan Hughes

A man has been charged with offences in relation to an investigation into an online blackmail plot.

It comes after a woman from Northern Ireland made a complaint about online exploitation.

PSNI officers from the Cyber Crime Centre arrested the 46-year-old in England.

He was then brought to Belfast where he is being questioned at a police station.

The suspect was detained in the Northampton area on Wednesday.

Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant said: "Our investigation began after a woman in Northern Ireland made a complaint about online exploitation.

"The investigation resulted in the arrest of a suspect for blackmail, harassment and fraud by misrepresentation. Our enquiries are continuing."

The man has been charged with fraud by false representation and harassment. He is due to appear at Dungannon Magistrates' Court on Friday morning.

As is normal procedure, all charges are reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.

Earlier this year a Co Tyrone schoolboy took his life when he fell victim to an elaborate blackmail plot involving the social networking site Facebook.

Ronan Hughes was found dead on June 5, days after being blackmailed by an international crime gang.

The 17-year-old student from Clonoe, just outside Coalisland, had been tricked into posting images on a social networking site.

The Donaghmore St Joseph's Grammar pupil confided in his parents three days before his death.

He told them about a fake Facebook account threatening to send images he had posted on a social networking site, after receiving photographs from a girl, to his online friends unless he paid £3,300 within 48 hours.

The lower-sixth pupil took his own life after learning the blackmailers had sent images to a friend. The PSNI has since traced the site to Nigeria and closed it down.

The principal of a primary school where the teenager volunteered said Ronan had been targeted by fraudsters on a fake Facebook page.

Stephen Magennis from St Joseph's Primary in Galbally said: "Ronan was a victim of ruthless, faceless people intent on first befriending him and luring him into giving personal information and sharing images that were then used to threaten him in an attempt to extort money.

"This was not anyone from the school or the local area."

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