‘International Sextortion Scheme’ Leads To Arrest Of American Woman, DOJ Says

Lisa Moore Contributor
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Hadja Kone, 28, of Wilmington, Delaware was arrested Friday for allegedly participating in a sextortion scheme that targeted thousands of young men across several countries, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

Kone, along with 22-year-old Siaka Ouattara of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and other unnamed co-conspirators “allegedly operated an international, financially motivated sextortion and money laundering scheme” that included “cyberstalking, interstate threats, money laundering, and wire fraud” from May 2020 to December 2022, the DOJ press release stated. (RELATED: FBI Alerts Public To Surge In ‘Sextortion’ Schemes Targeting Minors)

The indictment alleged that Ouattara and the co-conspirators posed as young females who engaged young men online, some of whom were minors, the press release stated. They allegedly offered or provided “sexual photographs, video recordings, and/or ‘web cam’ or ‘live video chat’ sessions.”

The victims were allegedly recorded surreptitiously during the video chats in compromising moments, then allegedly blackmailed unless they transferred funds to a CashApp or ApplePay account, according to the press release. The group allegedly “attempted to extort approximately $6 million from thousands of potential victims,” obtaining “approximately $1.7 million” in the process.

Kone allegedly assisted in operating the infrastructure that transferred the funds from Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere overseas, the press release stated.

The FBI issued a public safety alert on sextortion schemes in Jan. 2023, warning of the growing threat primarily targeting underage males.

“Over the past year, law enforcement agencies have received over 7,000 reports related to the online sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys,” the alert stated.

Kone has been charged with “conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and to send interstate threats, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, money laundering, and wire fraud,” according to the press release. She could face up to 20 years incarceration for each count of conspiracy and money laundering, as well as a maximum of 20 years incarceration for each wire fraud count.

Similar charges have been filed against Ouattara after she was arrested Feb. 24 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire by Ivoirian authorities, the press release stated. The government of Cote d’Ivoire has provided assistance to the FBI in investigating the case.