It’s more pernicious than revenge porn—and it only takes one malware-infected email, instant message, or download to ruin lives.
Twenty-year-old Jared James Abrahams of Temecula, California was sentenced on Monday to 18 months in prison for “sextortion”—hacking into the computers of dozens of women, furtively snapping nude photos of them and threatening to leak the images if they didn’t send him more naked pics or strip down during Skype sessions.
Abrahams, a computer science major at Temecula College, managed to obtain photos of teens from Southern California to Russia—including current Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf—and had access to as many as 150 computers before he was arrested last September. Two months later, he pleaded guilty to one count of computer hacking and three counts of extortion.
The “sextortion case” made international headlines when Wolf, who attended the same high school as Abrahams, was revealed as one of his targets. Abrahams told Wolf that her “dream of being a model will be transformed into a porn star” and posted a naked photo when she didn’t respond to his threats.
But the most disturbing details of this particular case involve two teenage victims from Ireland and Canada who relented to five minute Skype sessions with Abrahams, in which they “undressed for him...while he recorded their video chat sessions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Vibhav Mittal said during Abrahams’ sentencing.
Abrahams was menacing and pugnacious on Skype. According to FBI affidavits, he demanded one 14-year-old girl show “every part of you!” and warned a distraught 17-year-old victim, “I do NOT have a heart!”
Abrahams’ sentencing is the latest in a slew of California “sextortion” cases prosecuted by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office. In December, 27-year-old Karen “Gary” Kazaryan was sentenced to five years in prison for hacking and identity theft and declared a “sexual cyberterrorist” by prosecutors. And in 2011, 32-year-old Luis Mijangos was given six years for remotely accessing teenage girls’ webcams and playing “psychological games” with them for his own sexual gratification (the FBI estimated he was monitoring some 230 people, at least 44 of whom were underage, when he was arrested in 2010).
It’s unclear why Abrahams got a significantly shorter prison sentence than his “sextortionist” predecessors. His attorney noted that Abrahams suffered from “social anxiety and autism spectrum disorder,” but underscored that these were not grounds for mitigating his crimes.