Man gets 5 years for blackmailing woman out of $18,000
ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — A man who swindled $18,000 out of a woman by making her so scared of a character he invented that she didn’t want to talk about it in a room with windows has been ordered to serve five years in prison.
Mike Phillips pleaded guilty to blackmail Tuesday in Orangeburg County.
Phillips started blackmailing the woman after convincing her that she could get custody of her daughter during a divorce if she paid him to hire a private detective, prosecutors said.
But authorities said that instead of hiring someone, Phillips created a character he named “Trell,” who sent threatening text messages and even pretended to hold a gun to her head, the Times and Democrat of Orangeburg reported.
“I’ve never seen mind control to the extent that I’ve seen in this case,” said Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Rob Boyne.
Boyne said the woman told him she didn’t want to be interviewed in a room with windows.
“She wouldn’t take a breath without his permission,” Boyne said.
Police started investigating after the woman told workers at a mental hospital what was happening to her. She was sent to the hospital after cutting her arms, authorities said.
Phillips, 35, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but will only have to spend five years behind bars if he successfully completes five years of probation afterward, Circuit Judge Howard P. King ruled. He also ordered Phillips to pay back the $18,000.
Phillips said he needed the money because his salary with the Orangeburg County Public Works Department wasn’t enough to buy a boat and other things he wanted.
“I took advantage of her when I shouldn’t have,” said Phillips. He told the judge he had been working as a tow truck driver to try to pay the woman back.
Phillips also called his actions a mistake.
That was hard to accept since he kept blackmailing her for six months, the judge said.
King described Phillips’ actions as “more akin to assault or personal attack.”
Information from: The Times & Democrat, http://www.timesanddemocrat.com