A 25-year-old man has been charged over the alleged online ‘sextortion’ of 112 girls in various countries after an investigation by the Western Australia Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (WA JACET).
The man is expected to face Perth Magistrates Court today (23 October 2020) on 113 offences relating to 112 victims, after he allegedly pretended to be a teenage social media celebrity to befriend girls before blackmailing them into performing sexual acts on camera.
The WA JACET launched an investigation after reports from the United States’ Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Interpol about a person suspected to be in Australia who was targeting girls through social media.
One 13-year-old in the United States told police that a person she had met online and thought was a 15-year-old boy, had started asking her sexually explicit questions.
She claimed he sent her screen shots of the chat that were edited to make it appear she had liked his sexual fantasies and threatened to send those screen shots to her family and friends if she did not comply with his demands.
He allegedly forced her to take off her clothes and engage in sexual acts, while he and others watched her online.
Police will allege the same person used similar deceit to blackmail other girls in various countries into providing him with sexually explicit images or videos.
Investigations by WA JACET, which comprises Australian Federal Police and WA Police Force officers, identified a man from the Perth suburb of Parkwood as the person allegedly operating the social media accounts.
A search warrant was executed at the then 24-year-old’s home where investigators seized several electronic devices including a mobile phone, computer hard drives and USBs.
Police allege an initial review of the devices found more than 2000 images, most sexually explicit, of girls.
A detailed review of hundreds of social media chats stored on the man’s devices and others provided by Homeland Security Investigations is ongoing. Further charges may be laid.
The man is on court-ordered bail conditions which include that he is not to access the internet or any online service except for banking, employment or seeking legal advice; not to have unsupervised access to any children under 16 and to surrender his passport.
AFP Detective Senior Constable Barry Duman, from WA JACET, said police are working with international law enforcement partners and the social media companies to try to identify all the girls targeted, to check on their welfare and provide them support.
He said police will allege some of the evidence seized included text conversations and videos of the girls pleading for the man to leave them alone, detailing their distress, fear and humiliation.
“This type of online exploitation and abuse is devastating and can cause life-long trauma,” Detective Senior Constable Duman said.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure children are protected from predatory offending against their innocence.”
Detective Senior Constable Duman said the 13-year-old girl in the United States had been very brave to tell her mother and seek help because fear, coercion, and manipulation can keep these crimes going.
“We encourage parents and carers to speak to their children regularly about their online activities so they feel comfortable about asking for help if needed.
“Make no mistake, this despicable behaviour is a crime, help is available and police will investigate any complaints about this type of online conduct.”
HSI Attache to Australia, Adam Parks, said this result underscores the notion that these types of offences do real harm to real children around the world.
“Online child exploitation is a borderless crime that requires a borderless response,” he said.
“As such, HSI is grateful for the exceptional work of the AFP and WAPF for identifying the alleged offender, which may enable the start of the healing process for the victims.”
Adults and children can be the targets of sextortion, also known as image-based abuse. If this has happened to you, consider the following course of action:
- do not send any more personal images or videos
- get support from a trusted friend or family member, or professional support services
- collect as much evidence as you can, including screenshots, URLs or any other records
- block the persons number/profile/email address (do this after collecting evidence)
- giving in to requests is not encouraged, once you have complied with their demands there is nothing preventing them from targeting you again
- report the matter to police
If you are worried about your physical safety, call Triple Zero (000) or contact your local police station.
Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.
You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button at www.accce.gov.au/report.
Details of charges:
- 50 counts of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence, contrary to section 474.17(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- 26 counts of compelling a person to engage in sexual behaviour, contrary to section 327 of the Criminal Code (WA);
- 17 counts of soliciting child pornography material using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.19(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Two counts of intending to cause a child under 16 outside Australia to engage in sexual activity (other than sexual intercourse) in the presence of the defendant, contrary to section 272.9(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Seven counts of used a carriage service to transmit indecent material to a child under 16, contrary to subsection 474.27A(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Five counts of using a carriage service to engage in sexual activity with a child under 16, contrary to sub-section 474.25A(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Two counts of procuring a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity outside Australia, contrary to subsection 272.15(1) Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Three counts of used a carriage service to procure a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity, contrary to section 474.26(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- One count of did an act in preparation for engaging in sexual activity with a child under 16, contrary to section 474.25C of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (Carly’s Law).