It all started with words. “See, now you have a man who appreciates you and treats you like a princess,” 37-year-old hobby actor and cashier Margus Sepp wrote to one of his victims in October of 2014. A little later he added: “Darling, you are in my heart, and soul, and head every minute.” (spelling unchanged here and elsewhere – ed.)
The woman who was the recipient of these compliments was flattered despite never having met Sepp or even knowing his real name. The man used the Facebook alias Loll Nipitiri.
Flirtation between Sepp and the woman continued over several days, during which the former made increasingly bawdy requests, not to say demands. Because it was impossible for the two to meet face to face, Sepp wanted the woman to take nude photographs and record videos of herself and send them to him. She eventually agreed.
Real name remained secret
The man's tone changed completely only minutes after he had received the photos and videos. “Now for the worst part of the day for you unfortunately. /…/ (Postimees will not publish this part of the correspondence to protect the victim – J. V.) I have saved the photos and videos you made for me. I have also written down the names of your Facebook acquaintances, and I know where you work from before. And this brings us to business. I would like to hear suggestions from you of how you plan to keep these images from reaching your family, coworkers, and acquaintances.”
This turn of events came as a cruel shock to the woman. She was initially concerned whether she had done something wrong, something to displease him. An unfortunately common frame of mind among victims of such crimes. People often hope the situation can be defused, or that it is a joke.
This time it was not a joke, and Sepp set about blackmailing his victim for money he wanted in just a few hours. He demanded 600 euros via Western Union. Use of this channel is commonplace in extortion crimes as it offers a great level of anonymity to the recipient of the money. The woman said she cannot raise that kind of money, upon hearing which Sepp suggested she take out a fast loan.
The woman agreed to pay after much convincing, only to change her mind back and forth a few more times before doing what a lot of women before her had not had the courage to do – turn to the police to put an end to the garish blackmail.
The investigation revealed she was not Sepp's first victim – there had been several women. The victims were different ages, had different social backgrounds, and lived in different areas all over Estonia – there is nothing to connect them except the fact they were all taken in by Margus Sepp's honeyed tongue.
Cases like these are not rare in Estonia and in most cases have to do with the so-called letter from Nigeria, in which a foreign womanizer uses flattery to take women for large sums of money. Most cases do not resort to blackmail, however, but instead rely on trust born out of infatuation.
It is probable Sepp had knowledge of the “Nigerian letter” but opted for a more creative approach. He used Skype, Rate.ee, Facebook, and Flirtic to talk to the women. He never revealed his real name – appearing at times as Daniel or Alan. He claimed to be living in Tallinn here and living and working in Norway there.
Conversations usually took a clear path. Talk of love was followed by a determined attempt to receive nudes. Once he had the files, Sepp almost immediately resorted to blackmail. The impudent attempt was accompanied by compassionate rhetoric and claims that he has no other choice but to resort to extortion, down to assurances the money would be used virtually for charity.
True number of victims unknown
Sepp agreed to take delivery of the money in different ways. In dire straits, he even had victims transfer the money to bank accounts of people with close ties to Sepp.
In the end, Sepp managed to blackmail four people for a total of €2,350. There were other victims, but some refused to pay.
Sepp said in Pärnu County Court that he started on his path after suspecting his former partner of being unfaithful. He allegedly created a shadow account on a singles website to find proof of her infidelity. To his dismay, she went along with advances he made under the shadow account, and the couple broke up.
Sepp later started making use of his new skills to blackmail strangers for money. He said he always did it after having a few drinks. It is impossible to say how many people ended up Sepp's victims, while he claims that in several cases he did not really save the images or take any action when victims didn't pay.
In addition to these crimes, Sepp was prosecuted for theft, embezzlement, and robbery. Acts for which he has been convicted on several occasions before. The court sentenced Sepp to six years in prison of which he will have to serve six months with a five-year probation period.
Senior prosecutor of the Western District Prosecutor's Office Elle Keeman said she sought a punishment based on the usual criteria, like guilt, the act in question, and past behavior. Considering the nature of the act, the prosecutor also sought shock imprisonment.
The district prosecutor's office's press representative said that the district has not processed extensive blackmail cases like these before.