Online dating scammer pleads guilty

Handcuffs on a computer keyboard. (QMI Agency/SUZANNE BIRD)

Handcuffs on a computer keyboard. (QMI Agency/SUZANNE BIRD)

JAMES TURNER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:36 PM ET

WINNIPEG - A man has admitted he tried to shake down two British schoolteachers he met through an online dating service by threatening to leak sexually explicit pictures and videos of them if they didn't pay up.

Robert Li, 33, faced sentencing Friday after previously pleading guilty to a charge of extortion by libel.

Li used an alias to strike up separate relationships with two victims through the Plenty of Fish dating website in September 2011, court heard.

He began chatting with the women through Skype and a mobile phone app.

One of the victims told her local police her relationship with Li quickly progressed to where she trusted him enough to willingly perform sex acts for him using a webcam.

Li had conned her into believing he was soon moving to England and, based on their chats, she thought their relationship had a future.

"This will be just between us, won't it?" she was quoted as asking him.

"Why would I share you with anyone?" Li responded.

Then Li began spinning lies about needing money and being threatened "blood would be shed" if he didn't come up with it, he told her.

When she questioned his tale, he began withdrawing from the relationship.

Days later, she received a text from him containing the name of the school she worked at, followed by one asking if she "valued her job."

He threatened to share the explicit material with her school colleagues if she didn't send him £1,000.

The send button was never pushed on either the money or the videos.

Interpol handed the investigation off to Winnipeg police after Li used his name and city when telling the second victim where to wire money to.

Li, a former accountant with Investors Group, was immediately co-operative with police and "had absolutely no intention of following through on the threats he made," defence lawyer Sara Inness said.

"There was every indication this was an isolated activity. There are no other complainants out there," she said.

Judge Carena Roller will decide Dec. 13 whether to grant the Crown's request of a six-month conditional sentence, meaning Li won't see real jail.

Li is hoping for a suspended sentence and probation. He has no prior record.

james.turner@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @heyjturner


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