Sex scam: Politicians and teachers targeted online

Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone has told of being targeted in an attempted scam image

Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone has told of being targeted in an attempted scam. Photo: Wesley Lonergan

Politicians, teachers and others of “high standing” in NSW are being targeted in a “sexploitation” scam aimed at tricking them into compromising positions and forcing them to pay to protect their reputations.

A day after it emerged Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner reported a blackmail attempt to police, it can be revealed that Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone was also targeted in June in a strikingly similar case.

Cr Carbone believes his experience, during which he was asked to “connect” with a woman calling herself Pearl Wilson on the networking site LinkedIn, is an indication blackmailers are targeting Australian politicians.

A police source said the scam was “quite an extensive fraud” attempt that specifically sought out people of high standing in the community.

Police were aware of politicians, councillors and teachers among those targeted.

On Tuesday night, Channel Ten reported the extortionists also targeted a senior executive at Liverpool council, the general manager of a Central Coast council and a member of the military.

Asked to confirm this, a Liverpool council spokesman told Fairfax Media: “I don’t believe I can assist you with your inquiries.”

Channel Ten revealed on Monday night that Mr Stoner was the subject of a blackmail attempt via LinkedIn and reported the matter to police.

However, he has denied there were “images” involved.

In June, Cr Carbone received the connection request on LinkedIn from the person calling herself Pearl Wilson, who claimed to be an anti-child-trafficking advocate.

“Pearl” told Cr Carbone she was based in the United States and was “coming to Australia”. She encouraged him to download the Whatsapp Messenger mobile phone application, which he already had.

“She started sending ‘sexy’ photos,” Cr Carbone told Fairfax Media.

“I worked out what it was. She started to message me and I just ignored it, because I knew what she was trying to do. She said, ‘Why don’t you activate your camera and we can talk?'”

Through the application, Cr Carbone soon began receiving telephone calls from a mobile number based in Ghana, none of which he answered.

“The reason I’m on social media is because, as the mayor, people want to talk to me about all sorts of local issues,” Cr Carbone said.

“But I thought, ‘Who is this person? She’s trying to have a conversation with me from the USA. Why would I do that? What am I going to do, fix her garbage problem in America?'”

Cr Carbone believes “100 per cent” that he was targeted because of his job as mayor.

“You’ve got to be pretty stupid to fall for it,” he said. “I’m happily married. What you do is just ignore them.”

Mr Stoner alerted police in November 2014, shortly after he quit cabinet in anticipation of his retirement from politics at the March election.

Mr Stoner has said police told him not to discuss the matter.

On Tuesday, Premier Mike Baird said Mr Stoner’s experience was “a personal matter”, which Mr Stoner had never discussed with him.

“There’s nothing to suggest that what has taken place has in any way impacted his ministerial responsibilities,” Mr Baird said.

The police sources said the number of victims and the amount of money paid to scammers was unknown.

NSW police’s Robbery and Serious Crime Squad has investigated the scam but nobody has been charged.

A NSW Police spokesman said it would be “inappropriate to comment” about the investigation.

Henry Sapiecha

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