Man arrested for blackmailing and kidnapping in Orangeburg County

Published: Nov. 16, 2018 at 7:27 PM EST
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Thursday, November 16, 2018

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) – According to Sheriff Leroy Ravenell of the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, James Michael Phillips has been charged with blackmail; extortion and kidnapping of a woman for the past year.

Investigators were notified of the woman’s issue on Monday when her father called expressing concern after she attempted suicide on Nov. 8.

During the investigation, the OCSO learned that Phillips had promised the victim to assist in gaining custody of her child following the breakup of her marriage but it would cost.

With no real help provided by the suspect, the victim still managed to gain custody, thus ending the payments. However, Phillips then began an elaborate plan of creating a fake “gang” of which he played three different roles of gang members that wanted her to continue to pay.

Phillips said the gang had a package of photos said to make the victim look bad and that they would be released if payment wasn’t made to Phillips.

During this scheme, Phillips acted as if he was a shield for the victim, keeping her safe from the fake gang. She said he would take her to public locations where he would point out total strangers, saying they were in the gang wanting to harm her.

As the victim’s resources ran out and payments became fewer, the story changed to simply that the gang members were going to kill her and her child, if she didn’t pay.

The kidnapping charge stems from an incident in which Phillips placed an object at her back that implied a firearm. He then held her against her will while demanding more money.

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

During the hearing, bond was set on the North man at $5,000 for the blackmail charge and another $200,000 for kidnapping.

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

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