SINGAPORE - A 25-year-old man who threatened to show a nude photo of a male teenager to the police if he did not cough up $800 was jailed for eight weeks on Wednesday (Dec 30).
Mohammad Zareen Wahid, a waiter, pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal intimidation.
A district court heard that, some time in late August last year, Zareen got to know the victim - an 18-year-old student - via the social media platform,Tagged.
They exchanged phone numbers and soon began to have intimate conversations on WhatsApp, an instant massaging application.
Throughout this time, the victim, who cannot be named to protect his identity, thought Zareen was a woman.
During one of their WhatsApp conversations in early September last year, the student sent Zareen a photo of his naked lower body.
On Sept 24 that year, Zareen messaged the teenager, threatening to show it to the police unless he paid $800.
Alarmed and distressed, the student agreed; but he asked to settle half the sum first, as he did not have enough money with him.
That same day the student transferred $480 to Zareen, who later spent the money on shopping and daily expenses.
Five days after the student made the transfer, he lodged a police report.
Deputy Public Prosecutor John Lu urged the court to impose a deterrent sentence on Zareen, noting that he had deceived the victim into believing he was a woman, before leading their conversations to become sexual in nature.
With a rise in the use of social media, the courts should send a message to the public that such sextortion cases would not be treated lightly, he said.
In mitigation, Zareen, who did not have a lawyer, said he was having "serious financial issues" at the time of the offence and did not know that he was committing a serious offence.
He has since also made full restitution to the victim.
In passing sentence, District Judge Liew Thiam Leng noted that Zareen had made threats to the student, which led him to paying the former.
The judge agreed with the prosecution on the need for a stiff sentence to deter others from committing similar offences.
Zareen could have been jailed for up to two years and fined.