Sam Shepherd, of Kent Street, Portsmouth, was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Thursday 15 April, after admitting two charges of blackmail relating to victims in South Gloucestershire and Bristol.
Shepherd would befriend his victims on a dating website and then threaten to release intimate details about them to their friends and family. He arranged to meet the victims and demanded they hand over large sums of money.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, one of the victims said: “It’s been three months since the blackmail began, but it has felt like an incredibly long, tortuous and traumatic time. It truly has felt like my life has stood still and that I have been paralysed as the life I loved has fallen apart around me.
“I have gone from feeling confident, capable, in control, optimistic and more to now feeling ashamed, lost, overwhelmed with my loss of life, depressed, anxious, and paranoid. His arrest did alleviate some of those feelings, however I still fear for the future.”
DS Sharon Maggs said: “Sam Shepherd inflicted mental abuse on his victims who were worried he would reveal intimate or fabricated details about them to their family and friends. It was a cruel and manipulative crime designed to extort money and put victims in fear of reporting.
“We believe this type of offending is likely to be wider than the two victims we know about, so we’d ask for anyone who recognises this man, or this method of offending, to contact us on 101 and give the call handler the reference number 5220229864.