LPD, FBI warn of social media ‘sextortion’ of teens

LARAMIE — Area law enforcement agencies have been working with the FBI to investigate a sexual extortion case involving teens on Snapchat and Instagram, the Laramie Police Department reports. 

More than 150 victims nationwide have so far been identified, including students in Albany County and elsewhere in Wyoming. 

The suspects target teens in the middle and high school age range with no preference on gender, said LPD spokesperson Steve Morgan. 

The Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation and Laramie police have been working with the federal agency since being notified of the alleged “sextortion” earlier this year. 

The case involves multiple suspects who blackmail juvenile students into sending sexually explicit photos and videos. 

The suspects will send photos or videos from a previous victim and threaten to release the contents unless the new target sends photos and videos of him or herself, according to a press release. 

“The suspect demands videos and images over a multi-day period and claims that if the victim complies, the suspect will delete the files. This is not true,” the press release said. “The suspect forces (under threat of exposure) the child victim to conduct video calls which show the victim’s face, while the suspect keeps (their) own face hidden. This is done so the suspect can further exploit the child victim.” 

The suspect also will force victims to share their friends or followers lists. 

“Although the suspect(s) remain unidentified, Wyoming DCI and LPD continue to actively investigate this case and work with the FBI in an effort to put a stop to this ongoing exploitation,” the press release said.

Anyone who receives a message of this nature should report it to the police department non-emergency dispatch number at 307-721-2526 or to Wyoming DCI at 307-777-7181. 

Do not respond to the messages or view any content sent, but do save the messages for reporting purposes, Morgan advised. 

People also should not accept friend requests from accounts they don’t know or share others’ information. 

“The suspect depends on victims feeling ashamed or guilty to continue to exploit them. Remember, it is not your fault,” the press release said. “Regardless of what the suspect says, (they) will not stop the exploitation regardless of how many images or videos a victim sends.”