Ohio man pleads guilty in dating-service scam

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio man accused of extorting money through a dating-service scam has pleaded guilty to two counts of extortion totaling some $55,000 from more than 45 people across the country.

Prosecutors say Kevin Zunk and his co-defendant Tonya Blaze, both of Toledo, convinced people using a phone dating service that they had sent racy photos and messages to a child's cell phone.

The (Toledo) Blade reports 43-year-old Zunk told a federal judge Friday that he got the idea for the scam after he received an explicit photo on his cell phone by mistake.

Prosecutors say Zunk convinced victims to send racy photos of themselves to him. Then he contacted the victims and told them they had sent explicit messages or photos to a cell phone that belonged to his 11-year-old son.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Uram in Toledo says the victims were told that charges wouldn't be pressed against them if they sent money to replace the phone and reimburse other expenses.

Some victims say they were contacted by someone posing as a police detective or sheriff's deputy, says Seth Uram, an assistant U.S. attorney in Toledo. So, to avoid what they thought were legitimate charges, victims wired money that Zunk or Blaze later picked up, prosecutors said. One victim alone wired 24 payments totaling more than $18,000.

"He was threatened that they would inform his employer that they had sexually explicit photos of him that he had sent to a child," said Uram, the assistant U.S. attorney. Zunk's attorney, Spiros Cocoves, says no children were involved in the scheme. As part of his plea agreement, Zunk will not face additional charges.

For the extortion charges, he could face up to two years in prison and $250,000 in fines when he's sentenced in February. An extortion charge is pending against Blaze.