A former Playboy model has narrowly avoided jail after faking her own kidnapping and demanding a friend pay an £8,000 ransom.
Angelica Harte, 40, and accomplice Darren Fitzpatrick, 24, sent a series of Facebook messages to the friend in March saying that if she did not pay a ransom Harte would be physically harmed.
Prosecutor Matthew Barnes told the court: “[Fitzpatrick] stated that he had her close friend Angelica Harte and would cause her harm if money was not paid.
“The message stated, ‘If you want to see Angel, leave £5,000 in a duffel bag at New Street Station. Every hour that you are late she loses a finger.’”
He said the victim was extremely concerned. This fear was then exacerbated when Fitzpatrick sent her a picture of Harte’s hand with four fingers extended and one finger curled back in an attempt to suggest the finger had been cut off.
The victim then asked to see a video of the glamour model and was shown a short clip of a female whimpering and begging for help, the Birmingham Mail reported.
There were then more threats and demands for money, with the price increasing to £8,000, and the woman was shown with a pillowcase over her head with her hands behind her back.
The victim was warned: “If you want f*****g blood I will show you f*****g blood” and asked if she had “any last words” for her friend.
Instead she contacted the police who raided a house in Erdington, Birmingham and found the former model “alive and well and not in any difficulty”.
Mr Barnes said that since the incident the victim had begun experiencing flashbacks to her own kidnapping and was suffering significantly.
Both defendants pleaded guilty to sending a threatening electronic communication with intent to cause distress.
Judge Paul Farrer QC said they had originally been charged with the much more serious offence of blackmail which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
He said: “You fall to be sentenced on the basis that you perpetrated between you a sustained and cruel joke.
“There was significant victim impact here. It was in fact taken seriously.”
Harte was sentenced to seven months in prison, suspended for two years, while Fitzpatrick was handed a suspended sentence of eight months and ordered to do 200 hours of community service.