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Orangeburg man lead woman to attempt suicide after blackmailing her for a year

James Michael Phillips (34) Source: OCSD
James Michael Phillips (34) Source: OCSD
Updated: Nov. 16, 2018 at 11:12 PM EST
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ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) - An Orangeburg man has been arrested after blackmailing a woman for a year causing her to attempt suicide according to Sheriff Leroy Ravenell.

“This is just horrendous, there’s no other way to put it,” the sheriff said. “For this young woman to feel she had to make an attempt on her own her life to get out of this nightmare of blackmail, threats on her life and the life her child are simply beyond comprehension.”

Investigators were first notified on November 12th by the victim's father expressing concern after his daughter attempted suicide.

They learned that James Michael Phillips, 34, promised to help the victim gain custody of her child following the break up of her marriage but it would cost.

The victim was able to gain custody with not much help from Phillips and ended the payments.

This lead Phillips to began an elaborate plan of creating a fictitious “gang”, where he played three different roles of gang members, to get her to continue paying.

Investigators say Phillips used an electronic device to create the belief the gang members were contacting her.

Phillips said the gang had a package of photos that depicted the victim in a negative light that would be released if payments weren't received.

While threatening the victim, Phillips also acted as if he was protecting the victim and pretended to keep her safe from the fabricated gang.

She said he would take her to public locations where he would point out total strangers, saying they were in the gang that wanted to harm her.

As the victim’s resources ran out Phillips changed his story saying that the gang members were going to kill the victim and her child if she didn’t pay.

Phillips is facing kidnapping charges in connection to an incident where he placed an object to the victims back implying that it was a firearm.

He then held her against her will while demanding more money.

The victim’s parents told investigators they gave their daughter money under the belief she was paying for necessary school supplies.

Inv. Rob Boyne told the court in his entire career nearly 15 years that he had never seen such a despicable crime of deceit and deception.

“It’s a sad day, a sad day,” he said.

Phillips was taken into custody on November 15th and has been charged with blackmail/extortion and kidnapping.

During a hearing on November 16th, bond was set at $5,000 for the blackmail charge and another $200,000 for the kidnapping.

The $205,000 is a surety bond.

The victim was not present and remains hospitalized.

If convicted, Phillips is facing a maximum sentence of 30 years for kidnapping alone.

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