Web of Lies is in Greenville, South Carolina, to investigate a case of sextortion, where two criminals Carl Smith and John Dobbins, attempted to blackmail ex-soldier Jared Johns into giving them money.
Tragically, the incident contributed directly to Afghanistan veteran Johns taking his own life.
Smith and Dobbins were two incarcerated criminals accused of operating a sextortion scam from inside the Lee Correctional Institution. They used contraband cellphones to operate a dating scam where they pretended to be a young woman.
Posing as a young woman, they would eventually exchange naked pictures with their victim. Smith and Dobbins would then pretend to be the woman’s parents; they would claim she was only 17 and that they would go to the cops unless they were paid thousands of dollars.
Investigators would later learn that Smith and Dobbins were part of an expansive sextortion ring run by multiple inmates across the Carolinas, specifically targeted members of the armed forces. The scheme is thought to have extracted approximately $560,000 from 422 service members.
Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller later suggested that military men are often easy targets for this type of scam; he explained: “Because servicemen have so much to lose, they often capitulate, even when no wrongdoing has occurred.”
Dobbins and Smith accused of texting Jared Johns threatening messages
Dobbins and Smith contacted Johns via text message on September 10, 2018, when they demanded that he pay them $1,189. The criminals sent another threatening text around noon on September 11.
It’s thought that Johns killed himself a few minutes later with a self-inflicted gunshot. He was found lying on his bed in the apartment he shared with his twin brother.
In his last minutes alive, Johns recorded a video message for his two young sons; he said: “I hate that I’m not going to get to see you grow up, but it’s better this way, I promise.”
He also wrote on a dry erase board: “I’m sorry I’ve messed up. I love you all. This is not what I wanted. Tell my sons I was a good man.”
The veteran’s parents, Kathy Bowling and Kevin Johns, later told investigators that their son had suffered from post-traumatic disorder following his service in Afghanistan that had left him unable to cope with the threats.
Johns hadn’t realized he was being blackmailed and that he had done nothing wrong; in the exchange of texts, he empathized with the so-called parents of the 17-year-old but stated he had no recollection of the incident.
At the time, Dobbins was serving 25 years on drug charges and Smith was serving 15 years for assault. If convicted for the sextortion scheme, they could both face lengthy sentences.
More from Web of Lies
Follow the links to read about more vicious crimes conducted over the internet examined on Web of Lies.
Ron Shumway was brutally strangled to death by tenant Christopher Colbert, who then encased his victim in concrete in the backyard. Colbert then posed as his victim to sell the house and pocket the money.
William Melchert-Dinkel stalked internet suicide forums in the hope of encouraging vulnerable men and women to commit suicide for his own sick gratification. He requested that his victims hang themselves in front of a webcam.
Web of Lies airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.