A gavel rests on the judge’s bench in the courtroom of the 39th Air Base Wing legal office at Nov. 14, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

A gavel rests on the judge’s bench in the courtroom of the 39th Air Base Wing legal office at Nov. 14, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force)

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a Texas man of wire fraud and money laundering after he befriended his victims, told them he was a veteran of the Army’s elite Delta Force and they needed to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars so he could protect their children from being kidnapped by Mexican drug cartels.

Saint Jovite Youngblood, aka Kota Youngblood, 52, was first arrested July 31, after more than a year of swindling more than $821,000 from his victims, according to court documents. The FBI’s investigation found at least 22 victims dating back to 2010 “to whom Youngblood told intricate stories of investment opportunities or dangers posed that were often intertwined and difficult to keep straight.”

Youngblood told the people, who are not named in court documents, that he was able to provide protection for them against drug cartels because of his past military experience and the contacts he had within the National Security Agency. He also claimed he “freelanced for the Department of Defense” to solve problems throughout the country.

Youngblood, who lived in Manor, a town about 15 miles northeast of Austin, claimed to serve 22 years in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and Delta Force, which is primarily devoted to counterterrorism operations, such as capturing and killing a high-value target, breaking up terrorist cells or conducting hostage rescues.

Yet FBI investigators found no military service records for him.

With one of Youngblood’s victims, he would post negative reviews online that alleged criminal behavior about the victim’s businesses. Youngblood told the victim that it was the cartel’s way of threatening him and payments would make the online harassment stop.

Youngblood had his victims pay with checks through a business associate he described as an antique dealer who commonly deposited large checks, according to court records. The payments to protect their families would double as business investments and give returns, Youngblood told them.

He instead gambled the money away during trips to Las Vegas, according to court documents. The FBI arrested Youngblood at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport as he planned to depart on one of these trips, according to KVUE News, a local TV station.

Sentencing for Youngblood is pending with U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in the Western District of Texas.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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