A U.S. Department of Justice official in Siouxland is warning Nebraskans about on-line predators who are engaging in a new form of extortion, called “sextortion.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Duax says the crime is becoming more common, and some blame the growing popularity of provocative “selfies” on social media websites.
“Sextortion is essentially when the offender gets a compromising image or a compromising piece of information about the victim and then threatens the victim with the disclosure of that information if the victim doesn’t engage in sexually-explicit conduct or send him sexually-explicit images,” Duax says.
A recent case in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, involved a man who coerced a dozen girls between the ages of 12 and 15 into sending him photos via text, Facebook and other websites. Duax says the man threatened to post the sexually-explicit images he already had online or send the photos to the girls’ parents and friends if they didn’t continue to send him more pictures.
The man was sentenced to 42 years in prison and Duax says the case should serve as a warning.
“As a parent you definitely need to know what your child is using on their device, who they’re communicating with on their device and to try to set forth some ground rules for your children when they’re using those machines,” Duax says. “And it’s not easy, sometimes, to have those discussions, but if you don’t, you run the risk of being one of the parents of the kids I just talked to you about.”
Duax says U.S. law enforcement agencies investigated 54,000 reports of online sexual predators last year, leading to more than 8,500 arrests. The Cedar Rapids man who was sentenced in the “sextortion” case kept threatening one girl even after she sent him a text saying she was considering suicide.
By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City