A dad-of-two pretended to be a woman on a dating site and then extorted money from the married man he was communicating with.
James McLaughlin, 28, used the false name Jade Young to register on the site in mid-January 2020 and struck up a conversation with his unsuspecting victim.
As the online chats continued, photographs were exchanged but things took a sinister turn when McLaughlin demanded money.
Fiscal depute David Morton told Inverness Sheriff Court that on January 23 the man received a message that Jade Young was not a woman, but in fact a man.
Mr Morton said: “McLaughlin gave his bank details and asked for £1,500. If it was not paid, he said he would expose the exchanges with the man’s family members.”
Mr Morton said the victim paid in £1,000 before contacting the police.
‘The remorse came when he was caught’
Sentence was previously deferred for a background report and Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood said he was “having difficulty finding a reason not to impose a jail sentence”.
He added that the report indicated McLaughlin’s remorse but criticised him for not paying back any of the money since then.
“He spent it yet he was in a position to repay it,” the sheriff commented to defence solicitor advocate Neil Wilson.
Mr Wilson replied: “I suspect the remorse came when he was caught. This started as a drunken prank. He has a tendency to go on short binges.”
Sheriff Fleetwood ordered McLaughlin, of Greenwood Place, Inverness, carry out to 150 hours of unpaid work and to be on two years of social work supervision.
He added: “This is a calculated attempt to obtain money from an innocent person by deceit. You have done nothing to repay the money so I will also make part of the order you pay £1,000 in compensation.”