Delaware woman arrested in connection with international extortion scheme that netted $1.7 million

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A Delaware woman was arrested here on criminal charges related to her role in an international extortion scheme that targeted thousands of victims throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

According to an indictment unsealed on Friday from May 2020 through December 2022, Hadja Kone, 28, of Wilmington, and Siaka Ouattara, 22, of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and other co-conspirators allegedly operated an international, motivated sextortion and money laundering scheme. The individuals allegedly engaged in cyberstalking, interstate threats, money laundering, and wire fraud.

According to the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office, Kone, Outtara, and others attempted to extort approximately $6 million from thousands of potential victims and successfully extorted approximately $1.7 million from those victims, using CashApp and ApplePay accounts.

As alleged in the indictment, Ouattara and others posed as young, attractive females online and initiated communications with thousands of potential victims, who were primarily young men and included minors from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  

Ouattara and others allegedly offered to provide or provided victims with intimate photographs, video recordings, or “webcam” or “live video chat” sessions of what they falsely portrayed to be an attractive young female when, in fact, they were the ones operating the accounts.

During the webcam/live video chats, Ouattara and others recorded the victims during compromising activities.

Ouattara and others sent the victims copies of the victims’ fraudulently obtained the images and threatened to distribute the victims’ images to the victim’s friends, family members, significant others, employers, and co-workers and to publish the victims’ images online unless the victims transferred funds to designated recipients. Ouattara, Kone, and others also operated a mechanism to transfer the funds illegally obtained from the victims to Ouattara and others located in Côte d’Ivoire and elsewhere overseas.

On Feb. 24, Ivoirian authorities arrested Ouattara in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on charges stemming from the same scheme.

Kone and Ouattara are each charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and to send interstate threats, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, money laundering, and wire fraud. If convicted, Kone and Ouattara each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each conspiracy count and money laundering count, and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count. 

The FBI is investigating the case, with assistance from the government of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).