Man in 'sextortion' case might have coerced 350 women

Authorities call 'sextortion' a variant of 'sexting' in which someone assumes a false Internet identity and coerces others into providing sexually explicit content. Two cases point to the trend.

Federal agents on Tuesday took aim at a new type of scam called “sextortion,” arresting a Glendale, Calif., man on charges that he hacked into e-mail and Facebook accounts of young women and then posed as a woman to convince others to send him nude photos of themselves.

Karen “Gary” Kazaryan was named in a 30-count indictment charging him with gaining unauthorized access to e-mail, Facebook, and Skype accounts belonging to more than 100 women from 2009 to 2011.

Once he’d hacked into an account, Mr. Kazaryan would change the password and then pose as the female owner of the account, according to the indictment.

He would contact the account holder’s female friends and attempt to persuade or extort them into removing their clothing so he could photograph them via their webcams.

The “sextortion” scam is a variation of the practice of “sexting,” sending nude images of one’s self over the Internet to others.

The indictment says Kazaryan used naked or semi-naked images of victims to force them and other victims to remove their clothing again and again.

Investigators suspect he may have victimized more than 350 women. They found more than 3,000 photos of nude or semi-nude women on Kazaryan’s computer, according to court documents.

Some of the explicit photos were discovered in his victim’s accounts and others had allegedly been taken by Kazaryan via Skype.

The indictment charges 15 counts of computer intrusion and 15 counts of identity theft. If convicted, Kazaryan faces up to 105 years in prison.

Last week, a Montgomery, Ala., man was sentenced to 35 years in prison after admitting that he carried out a “sextortion” scheme from 2009 to 2011 against young girls across the country, including a 14-year-old girl and 15-year-old girl, both in Louisiana.

He was charged with producing child pornography and engaging in interstate extortion.

Christopher Patrick Gunn used computers, chat rooms, and other social media to befriend and then eventually coerce teenaged girls into sending him explicit photos of themselves via the Internet.

Investigators identified various ruses used by Mr. Gunn. In one he would pose as the new kid in town. He’d send messages over Facebook and engage young girls in web-based conversations.

Eventually he would elicit intimate details from the girls. As the online relationship became more intimate, Gunn would increase the pressure for more intimacy – such as requesting a photo of the victim in her bra.

Next he would ask her to remove the bra. If she refused, he would threaten to reveal the content of their conversations – and any existing intimate photos – to her parents, friends, and school officials.

This is how he convinced the 14-year-old in Louisiana eventually to self-produce pornographic and sexually-explicit videos of herself and send them to Gunn.

According to officials, in one exchange, a 13-year-old victim told Gunn that she did not want to take her shirt off in front of the webcam. Gunn replied that if she did not comply he was poised to push the send button on his computer to reveal their earlier conversations to parents and friends.

The girl pleaded with Gunn, saying she was only 13. She said she had “a life, please do not ruin it,” officials said.

Gunn responded: “I am sending now since u won’t do what I want.”

The girl told Gunn if he sent the information she would kill herself. Gunn was unmoved. He demanded she remove her shirt, or else. She did so, authorities said.

According to court documents, Gunn used the following false names online: Tyler Mielke, Jason Lempke, CJ Harper, Dalton Powers, Dalton Walthers, Daniel Applegate, and Daniel Rodgers.

According to court documents, his victims were located in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, California, and New York.

In some cases he is said to have posed as Justin Bieber, promising his victims free concert tickets, backstage passes, or other fan-related benefits in exchange for an explicit photo.

In addition to 35 years in prison, Gunn will be required to register as a sex offender and serve a life term of supervised release.

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