GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Wednesday afternoon Federal authorities announced charges against a Florida man accused of sextorting a 13-year-old West Michigan girl from Clinton County.
Investigators believe there may be more victims.
Brandon Huu Le, 21, of Maitland, Florida was indicted on coercion and enticement of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor and receipt of child pornography in connection with an alleged sextortion scheme Snapchat.
Sextortion involves threats against a victim—including threats to publish or distribute private and sensitive information about someone—if the victim does not provide the perpetrator with sexually explicit images or videos, sexual favors or money, authorities said.
Federal authorities said between Aug. 10 and 11, 2019, Le used Snapchat to contact a 13-year-old girl living in the Western District of Michigan.
"Some of this investigation involves unwinding who users really are online, and that takes time," said Adam Townsend, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan.
The indictment alleges that Mr. Le steered the Snapchat conversation to sexual topics; took a screenshot of the sexual portion of the conversation; and then threatened to publicly post that conversation online with the girl's name if the victim did not provide him with sexually explicit photos and material.
“These charges represent serious allegations, and we are moving with all diligence to make our case and protect the public,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten, for the Western District of Michigan. "Anyone can be a victim, but this crime especially targets some of the most vulnerable members of our society, teenagers and children."
“Sextortion is on the rise and represents a real and present danger to every child, teenager, and user of social media. We will use every power at our disposal to protect our most vulnerable community members from this emerging threat.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI are working to identify other individuals, nationwide who Le may have approached.
"We have contacted some individuals, We're in the process of of identifying others," said Totten.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office believes that Le used the name “Ty” and the following usernames on various social media, messaging, and e-mail accounts:
The FBI provides the following six tips on how people can protect themselves from sextortion schemes:
1. Be selective about what you share online. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you.
2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
3. Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that people are who they claim to be. Images can be altered or stolen. In some cases, predators have even taken over the social media accounts of their victims.
4. Be suspicious if you meet someone on one game or app and this person asks you to start talking on a different platform.
5. Be in the know. Any content you create online—whether it is a text message, photo, or video—can be made public. And nothing actually “disappears” online. Once you send something, you don’t have any control over where it goes next.
6. Be willing to ask for help. If you are getting messages or requests online that don’t seem right, block the sender, report the behavior to the site administrator, or go to an adult. If you have been victimized online, tell someone.
Sextortion is a trend that officials say is growing across the country and in Michigan.
"Unfortunately, sextortion cases are on the rise in Michigan. Significantly, our National Intake Center received 629 tips about sextortion cases across Michigan over the last two years," said James Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. "483 of those tips [were] in last year alone. That's slightly more than three times the number of reports as compared to 2021."
If you have information about or believe you are a victim of sextortion, contact your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at http://tips.fbi.gov.
More information is available at this website.
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