(WXYZ) - You've heard of cyber stalking. Now, a much more serious crime has been given a new name: sextortion.
This can easily happen to your kids in your own home!
As you will see, one case came close to ending in a teen suicide. And the guy allegedly behind it, has done it before.
“He set up his tools, he figured out who his targets were going to be,” is how Ives Potrafka from the Center for Computer Forensics describes the situation.
According to federal court documents those targets were 18 girls from ages 14 to 18 - all in the Buffalo, New York area.
The man at the computer here in metro Detroit is allegedly, 36-year-old James S. Allen.
Police say he would use Facebook, Twitter, email and texts, all the social media that are at the center of most teens lives.
According to the feds, he would make contact, then scare them, saying that he had naked pictures of them that he would post online and send to their relatives and friends.
He convinced many to log into a phishing website to look for their photos, even if they did not exist. That's how he got their personal information. And he would hack into their accounts.
The federal prosecutor on the case is in Buffalo, New York.
“Once he had that power, if you will, then he was able to continue his exploitation including harassment,” says Assistant US Attorney Aaron J. Mango.
Court records show 5 of the 18 young girls met Allen on Skype.
Several pages of the Skype chats obtained with subpoenas show how Allen allegedly threatened the girls that he would go public with their embarrassing pictures unless they posed naked for him.
In the case of a 16-year-old girl, she told investigators she did a Skype and got several text messages, threatening to post her nude pictures.
According to court documents: "she was so upset over this incident, that she put a belt around her neck. The victim's mother was able to intervene before any injury."
“Hopefully the message is beginning to be sent with cases such as this, that there are dangers on the internet,” says mango.
Potrafka has seen it all, working decades in cyber crime across Michigan in law enforcement and now in private practice. He says cyber footprints make a case.
“That’s actually made it easier for law enforcement, to catch some of these guys,” Potrafka says. “But it’s also given them a tool to not have to stalk in person.”
James Allen used those tools before. In 2007 he pleaded guilty to cyber stalking two Michigan women and served 5 years probation. That ended April 20th of last year.
That same day, federal court records show, he set up the phishing website. And 6 days later got a cell phone used to text the New York victims.
“he made his probation and started the process all over again,” Potrakfa says. “I think it’s fortunate the FBI got him so quick. Cause this could have gone on a lot longer. He only had 3 or 4 months.”
Court documents show when the feds busted Allen last fall, he called his actions a game. And acknowledged it was wrong.
But he also claims to have communicated with only 5 to 8 girls ranging in age from 16 to 30-years-old.
He's charged with 18 counts, including producing child porn. The most serious charges carry a sentence of 30 years in prison.
He remains locked up in New York awaiting trial.
As a parent, it is up to you to decide how your child uses a computer, smart phone and social media. And it is up to you to decide how you monitor them.
Some suggest you keep the computer your kids use in the open, like in the family room.
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