ST. JOHNS, Mich. (WLNS) — St. Johns Public Schools will be joined by law enforcement and the FBI Wednesday to help parents prevent the “sextortion” of their students.
The school district announced that both local police and the FBI are seeing a “huge increase” in extortion of their students for their online activities.
The FBI will host a presentation at the St. Johns High School Auditorium from 6-7 p.m. to better inform parents on how to stop these threats from happening.
This meeting comes after a Florida man was charged in federal court on Jan. 11 with “sextortion” of a Clinton County 13-year-old, according to federal attorneys.
Attorneys alleged that on Aug. 10 and Aug. 11 of 2019, 21-year-old Brandon Le used Snapchat to contact the 13-year-old girl.
He started talking to her and then steered the conversation to sexual content.
He then screenshotted the messages, threatening to publicly post the screenshots online unless she sent him sexual photos, according to attorneys.
Michigan State University professor Karen Holt said an online chat can turn into something worse.
In a 2020 study that Holt co-anchored to figure out who’s behind these crimes, the study found that offenders ranged from young men posing as minors to connect with young girls to suspects claiming to have hacked victims’ personal files.
Holt said police agencies, including some in Michigan, have made strides to crack down on the crime.
Some governments are even looking to make laws specific to sextortion, and Holt said preventing and catching these crimes starts with open discussions between parents and teens.
“It’s never about the victim, it’s never the victim’s fault, no matter what they’ve done,” said Holt.
Holt remarked that many times, criminals will tell their victims that speaking out will also get them in trouble.