INSIDE EDITION Investigates Sextortion
When 15-year old Amanda Todd shared her heartbreaking story over the internet, it went viral.
She told her ordeal on printed cards writing: "In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam" "Meet and talk to new people" "Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect."
But the story took a disturbing turn when she revealed that a man she was speaking to online, "wanted me to flash. So I did."
The man then threatened to put her topless photo online. The next thing Amanda knew, cops showed up at her home telling her the photo was sent to everyone she knew – including family and friends.
As a result, Amanda was bullied mercilessly at school. She couldn't take it anymore, and committed suicide.
What happened to Amanda is a new internet crime being called “sextortion,” and it's happening all over the country. Over the past few years, a number of men around the country have been convicted of victimizing hundreds of people. The problem is getting so bad that public service announcements have been produced to warn young women to avoid sharing intimate pictures over the internet.
One of the most vile cases of sextortion involved a 44-year old man named Russell Freed. He obtained intimate pictures of his own step-daughter and then, while posing as someone else, used those images to extort her into sending more explicit pictures. He sent her threatening emails, like: "Hey slut. I want those pics now.” “Should I tell UR parents what a whore u r?"
All the time, she never knew the emails were coming from her stepfather, living under the same roof.
Freed pled guilty to multiple counts of possession of child pornography. While awaiting sentencing, INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero saw him with two young children, a possible violation of his bail.
As he returned home one afternoon, Guerrero caught up with him and asked, "How can you defend abusing and tormenting your own step-daughter?" Freed had no response.
David Hickton, the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, says the threats made by sextortionists have a profound effect on young people, who often feel their lives are ruined forever.
"What you see are the terrible emotional reactions of these victims. They are considering taking their own life. They are riddled with shame. It is so tragic and so painful," said Hickton.