If you’re on any social media platform, you know how easy it is to open an account—using whatever name and profile you want. It’s not like anyone is verifying you are who you say you are.
Most adults get that there are impostors on social media and are wary of conversations that don’t feel right. But teens and young adults plod through social media making new friends and telling them almost anything.
Teens and young adults are wise to stranger danger and running away when a man in a panel van says he has found a lost puppy he wants you to look at. But, yes, another but, they aren’t applying that skepticism and caution toward new friends on the internet.
The 22-year-old impostor in this true crime case posed as a teen girl and trolled for young boys. Once he had the boys on the hook, he started asking for sexually explicit photos. Hundreds of boys fell for the ruse and complied. When his requests became even more specific, many boys balked. He then blackmailed them into compliance for fear their earlier photos were going to be posted to social media along with their names.
What the victims didn’t know was that the impostor had been sharing their photos with like-minded sickos all over the world. What the impostor hadn’t planned on was his fetish becoming a federal crime.
Project Safe Childhood received complaints about a person using social media accounts to do what the man in this case had been doing.
After looking into the complaints, FBI agents went to the home of the 22-year-old. The man admitted to what he’d been doing and gave consent for them to search his electronic devices. The authorities arrested him and charged him with multiple crimes.
It took one year to work through him filing motions to have his admission and search consent suppressed. Once the court settled all the issues, a jury convicted him on many counts and a judge sentenced him to 139 years in federal prison. You read that right—years, not months.
A U.S. Attorney associated with this case said,
“The lengthy sentence handed down today sends a message to those who use the internet to target and extort children through sexual exploitation…”
The impostor appealed the sentence as unreasonable. An appeal court agreed and reduced his sentence to 50 years. He appealed that decision as well. The court looked at other cases and concluded the 50-year sentence was appropriate for the crimes he committed.
Source: U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Appeals, FBI