(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)

Cranbrook man arrested, RCMP recommending charges of alleged online extortion

Cranbrook RCMP is recommending charges against a local man involving allegations of online extortion and threats on a social media platform.

A 40-year-old man was arrested last week, following separate investigations from Cranbrook, Columbia Valley and Elk Valley RCMP dating back to December last year, which involved the social media platform Snapchat. During early stages of each investigation, police noted several files were linked to the same username “ricksmith5788” and “hanksmith8479,” according to a media release.

“RCMP in the Kootenay region noted the links early on, then combined its information and resources to undertake this complex investigation,” said Cst. Katie Forgeron, Media Relations Officer for the Cranbrook RCMP. “After months of inter-jurisdictional investigation, a Cranbrook man was taken into police custody.”

The man, who has not yet been formally charged, was taken into custody on April 30 and released on rigorous conditions. Police continue to investigate, while the B.C. Prosecution Service undertakes a charge assessment process.

“Police have reason to believe that the accused may have contacted other people in a similar manner,” said Cst. Forgeron. “We are asking anyone who may have been in contact with an individual in Snapchat, or other social media platforms, with either username ricksmith5788 or hanksmith8479, or if you feel that you may have been subject to harassment or received online threats, to contact your local police.”

The accused’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 5, 2021, in Cranbrook Provincial Law Courts.