The FBI is alerting parents of a new crime being committed called “Sextortion”.
“Sextortion” is described as an online tactic used by predators to obtain sexually explicit images from teens.
The Sextortion tactic was discovered after a 15 year old female in Florida alerted authorities.
In June of 2005 the young female logged on to her computer and received a shocking instant message. The sender, whom the girl did not know, asked her to send him pictures of her in the shower. The sender said he knew where the girl lived and if she didn’t comply with his request her sister would be harmed.
The scared girl sent the sender 10 black-and-white images. The sender then said her images were not good enough. The girl continued to comply with his requests and sent him 10 more. The new batch of images were nude and in color. The girl continued to stay mum to her parents about what was going on in fear of alarming them.
Special Agent Nickolas B. Savage interviewed the girl and her mother after the girl contacted authorities. Savage spoke regarding the situation stating, “Once these individuals have pictures they want more.” Savage continued by saying, “They are then able to say, ‘I want you to do z, y, and z. And if you don’t I’m going to take these photographs, and I’m going to send them to people in your school. I’ll send them to your family.’”
Savage worked with the Innocent Images National Initiative Task Force to help track down the perpetrators who hacked the young female’s computer.
Savage and his colleagues were able to arrest Patrick Connolly and Ivory Dickerson for “sextortion” and charge them with terrorizing this young girl. Authorities believe Connolly and Dickerson were able to compromise the girl’s computer, demand sexual images and videos, and scour the girl’s social network. The men were then able dupe the girl’s friends by sending emails with malicious software attached. The friends downloaded the email because it seemed to come from a trusted source.
Authorities later found out the harassment was widespread. Connolly and Dickerson purportedly committed sextortion on more than 3,800 children. Some of the victimization lasted for as many as seven years. Some of the victims attempted suicide. One victim dropped out of high school in fear of someone looking over her shoulder.
“Often times children are embarrassed, especially thinking they have somehow contributed to their victimization,” Savage said. He continued with saying, “So fearing they will get in trouble if they report it, they will continue with the victimization and send individuals what they are requesting. What often happens is the victimization never stops.”
Authorities were able to catch on to the scheme when they cloned a victim’s computer. Over the course of two years, authorities corresponded with the hacker. The hacker, Connolly, was a British citizen who carried out at least some of scheme while working a military contractor in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Authorities eventually were able to catch Dickerson as well. Dickerson carried out his part of the scheme in North Carolina. Dickerson collected a huge portfolio of pictures and videos and webcam footage recorded from compromised computers. Dickerson had amassed a total of 230 gigabytes of material. Connolly was found to have four times that amount of information.
Both were found guilty of multiple charges. Dickerson was sentenced in 2007 to 110 years in prison. In 2010 Connolly was sentenced to a lesser sentence of 30 years in prison. Questions about this blog post? The Strom Law Firm, LLC may be reached at 803.252.4800.