TOLEDO, Ohio (CBS/AP) Imagine thinking you've made a romantic connection through a dating service. Now imagine you let that person convince you to send them intimate pictures of you from your cell phone, only to get a threatening message in return claiming you sent those pictures to a minor and telling you they were going to file criminal charges if you didn't pay them off.
Well that's exactly what investigators say Kevin Zunk and Tonya Blaze, both of Toledo, Ohio, did to at least seven people across the country, extorting over $10,000 from them.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court Wednesday, Zunk and Blaze would contact their victims through the dating service, giving them a phone number to send messages to. Investigators say they would then coax their victims into sending increasingly explicit texts until finally having them send nude photographs - that's when they would spring their trap.
Zunk would contact the victims again, sometimes posing as an FBI agent or sheriff's deputy, and tell them that they sent the explicit messages to an 11-year-old child and they would be charged as sex offenders if the victims didn't pay them to keep quiet.
One of their supposed victims finally contacted the FBI after paying Zunk $2,485 in October 2009, launching the investigation that finally caught the alleged lonely heart scammers.
According to the affidavit the Florida man says he sent nude photos to Zunk after meeting him through the dating service and soon after Zunk called him claiming that the pictures were sent to Zunk's 11-year-old daughter. Zunk then demanded money claiming that he needed it to cover the cost of changing his daughter's number and to appease his distraught wife.
The man claims that Zunk contacted him repeatedly after the initial payment demanding more money and threatening to call the man's boss if he didn't pay.
Investigators say other victims included people in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. They have not said whether the couple actually has an 11-year-old child.