Conman posed as paedophile hunter in blackmail ‘honey trap’ scheme with pal

A conman posed as a paedophile hunter to blackmail cash from men after using a female pal as "bait" in a catfishing-style scam.

Joseph Banks, 27, used accomplice Georgina Owen, 22, as a honey-trap by posting "alluring photos" on dating apps and arranging to meet for a date.

But when they arrived for their rendezvous with Georgina – who used the alias Lilly-May – Banks would confront them and claim the woman was an underage girl.

He would then accuse them of being paedophiles and demand money in return for not contacting the police.

However, his plan backfired after two men who paid him went to the police themselves and Banks was arrested for his "cynical" scheme of entrapment.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Cooke told him: "You involved yourself in a scheme to try to extort money from people who were using a dating site.

"The scheme was with a girl who was your accomplice, on the face of it, and went on that website and created a profile illustrated with alluring photographs, and she was there as bait to lure men.

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"She is perhaps fortunate not to have been charged herself for her role in this.

"When the young men who have been attracted by her turn up for a meeting with her, that is when you pounce, declaring her to be underage and accusing them of being paedophiles.

"It was a very cynical and unpleasant scheme. The most severe of reputational harm was being threatened."

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Prosecutor Ian Windridge earlier told the court: "Both offences follow a pattern similar to the entrapment technique.

"Mr Banks was working with a young woman, Georgina Owen, who was 22, in May and June 2020.

"She is perhaps very fortunate that the police took sympathy on her and that she is not facing similar charges."

During the online chat with the first victim her age was "reduced to around 16" as the arrangement was made for him to visit Lilly-May at a flat in Station Street, Atherstone.

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Mr Windridge said: "He arrived and entered the flats, and was halfway up the stairs when he encountered Mr Banks who approached him from behind and accused him of being a paedophile."

Banks claimed Lilly-May was under 16 and threatened to report him to the police if he did not hand over £400.

The man said he did not have that much, and accessed his account online which showed only £142 in it – which he was then ordered to transfer to Banks's account.

A second man who communicated with the alias was told she was 19 before he travelled to the flat on June 2.

Mr Windridge added: "As he made his way up to the flat he heard a voice.

"Banks accused him of being a paedo and told him the girl was only 15, and that he would call the police."

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Banks offered him an alternative to the police being called, and demanded £1,000 to delete a video he said Miss Owen, who was holding a phone, had been recording.

When that man showed he only had £280 in his account, he was told to transfer that and was allowed to leave as long as he transferred a further £1,000 within two hours.

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But instead, he went to the police and Banks, who has multiple previous convictions and was on licence at the time, was arrested.

Banks, of Atherstone, admitted to two charges of blackmail and was jailed for 22 months at Warwick Crown Court on Wednesday, July 21.

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