A blackmailer who threatened to release sexual images of his victim to extort thousands of pounds from her has been locked up.

Carlo Merola, aged 31, of Greylag Gardens in Milton Keynes, was jailed for two years and ten months at Aylesbury Crown Court on Monday, May 24 after he pleaded guilty to blackmail.

Merola used sexual images of his victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and threatened to send them to her friends and family if she did not send him cash and drugs from March 2019 to March 2020.

Before he was sentenced, prosecutor Sandra Beck read out a statement from the victim, which outlined the impact the blackmail had had on her life.

She said: “I felt disgusted with myself. I couldn’t tell anyone because I thought they would blame me.

“This made me feel dreadful because it was not only me that was affected, but my children as well.

“I made a silly decision, but as a result, he put me through a year of hell.”

The court heard from Ms Beck how in early 2020 Merola had been suffering with mental health problems and financial issues, and the victim had been helping him by sending him money.

The pair would regularly message each other over social media and became more and more friendly. At one point, the victim sent sexual images and a sexual video to Merola to “cheer him up.”

The friendly relationship took a turn for the worse after this. Merola started to demand more from the victim and threatened to send the photos and video to her friends and her husband if she didn’t pay up.

At one point, he said to her in a message: “Do you think I’m scared of a bit of prison time? You’ve got a lot more to lose than me.”

Merola also ordered his victim to send him cannabis as well as money, and in January 2020 alone she sent £1,300 to his account.

In March 2020, unable to carry on paying her blackmailer, the victim went to the police and told them what had happened.

In total, the victim sent Merola £8,265 over a year-long period. The victim, who was on benefits, struggled to get enough money together and has landed herself in debt by borrowing money to pay off her blackmailer.

The victim, who has two children, was forced to hand over the money she needed to look after her kids.

Representing Merola, Laban Leake said that the defendant felt “deep remorse” over what he had done.

Sentencing, judge Bal Dhaliwal said: “She (the victim) was left short in trying to look after her children and lost three stone.

“What aggravates what I have in front of me is the length of time that this went on.

“She didn’t have funds easily at her disposal and was on benefits, and used money that she would provide for her children to meet those demands.

“What was coming into someone on the bread line was going to you.”

As well as the prison sentence, Merola was ordered to pay £8,265 back to the victim in compensation. He has also been issued with a restraining order.