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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — U.S. District Court in Little Rock is shown in this file photo.

Masquerading as an internet star, a Little Rock man struck up sexy conversations online with young women across the country, later using any suggestive photographs they sent him to extort more explicit photos under the threat of being exposed to all their Facebook friends, federal prosecutors argued this week.

In reality, Devion Marquette Cumbie, now 24, was a convicted felon on pretrial release on a charge of illegally possessing a firearm. Prosecutors said that from his Lancaster Road apartment, he used his cellphone in the fall of 2018 to create a Facebook page under the name of Chink Capone, the online persona for actor Alex Drummond.

Through that persona, Cumbie's Facebook page soon attracted more than 5,000 followers, which prosecutors said was one reason some of those followers were awestruck and flattered when he initiated conversations with them. They said he also claimed to be a tattoo model, a rapper and a podcast host, telling at least one correspondent, "I'm low-key famous."

Soon, according to an FBI agent's testimony, Cumbie was carrying on simultaneous online conversations with women and girls from coast to coast, claiming that although he was based in New Jersey, where the actor lives, he also had houses in whatever state his correspondents lived in, and hoped to see them on his next visit.

On Thursday night, after hearing 2½ days of testimony, a federal jury reported being deadlocked on six charges Cumbie faced: four counts of extortion and two counts of attempted production of child pornography. The latter two charges were filed because two of the girls, both of whom prosecutors said were asked to send fully nude photographs of themselves in specific suggestive poses, were younger than 18.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. ordered the jury -- seven women and five men -- to return at 9 a.m. today to continue deliberations.

Prosecutors said Cumbie knew the two girls were minors because, as transcripts of the conversations revealed, he asked them their ages at the beginning of the chats and trolled their Facebook pages for information about their friends and families. The transcripts were shown to jurors and narrated by FBI Agent Aaron Hurst.

From the witness stand Thursday, Cumbie told jurors that while he engaged in some of the online conversations, he didn't participate in those that involved minors or extortion attempts. He said those conversations, which occurred between Oct. 13, 2018 and Dec. 12, 2018, must have occurred when a friend of his became his roommate for a month and used his phone without his knowledge.

The former friend testified that he had nothing to do with the posts, even if he may have used Cumbie's phone a time or two. In court documents, prosecutors sought to keep out testimony from Cumbie's wife that she received a text message from the former roommate admitting he had committed the crimes. Prosecutors said the roommate "vehemently" denied sending the text, telling investigators that the woman must have sent it to herself, in an effort to frame him, when he let her use his phone.

Cumbie's attorney, Robby Golden of Little Rock, told jurors that even though the Facebook account in question was created using Cumbie's cellphone number, that doesn't mean it was his account. Golden cited some password changes to the account during the period that "Chink Capone" conversed with the victims. Prosecutors said Cumbie intentionally created new passwords to make it appear that the Facebook account had been hacked.

The threats came to light when a 16-year-old girl in Aurora, Colo., called police to complain that she had received messages on Facebook and Instagram from someone named "Chink Capone," with whom she exchanged flirtatious messages before he demanded that she send him nude photographs of herself.

The girl said she had earlier sent "Capone" a photo of her exposed breast, and that he later told her to send more photos, this time fully nude and in specific poses, or he would post the photo of her breast on his Facebook page, and would tag it with her name to ensure that her Facebook friends saw it as well.

A Colorado detective, using court orders, eventually traced the internet protocol address of the creator of the Facebook page to the Lancaster Road address where Cumbie lived with the woman who is now his wife. The detective contacted the Arkansas State Police, who in turn contacted the FBI. Hurst then got a search warrant to review the Facebook account and discovered the extortions, according to court documents.

In narrating some of the conversations, Hurst said "Capone" bragged about his jet-setting lifestyle and asked the victims -- in explicit language -- if they were ready to have sex with him when he "touched down" in their cities.

In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin O'Leary reminded jurors of several of the online conversations they had seen through transcripts, in which Cumbie told his victims, shortly after receiving a risque photo from them, "We're about to play a game called Cooperate or Expose." She said he would then instruct them to "get naked" and set the camera on their phone to pose in a particular position, often sending pictures of fully clothed women in the poses, as examples of what he wanted. He would send a screen shot of the embarrassing photo and threaten to show it to the world unless she complied, O'Leary said.

She reminded jurors that one of the girls, who had flown in from out of state to testify against Cumbie, was 16 and in high school at the time. The girl testified that at the time she corresponded with Chink Capone, who O'Leary said had "carefully cultivated his persona to be attractive to women," she was lonely and felt she had no friends.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant told jurors, "This wasn't a game to these five girls who were afraid their naked pictures were going to get on the internet because they were trying to impress an internet celebrity. We know who Chink Capone is, and it's Mr. Cumbie."

The girls identified by initials as victims in Cumbie's indictment lived in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and Arkansas.

Metro on 02/21/2020

Print Headline: Trial over internet fakery hits wall

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