A Virginia man has been charged with cyberstalking a 20-year-old Delaware County woman in a “sextortion” scheme.
Terrell Ashby, 22, was arrested at his residence in Williamsburg, Virginia, on Friday, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced in Philadelphia.
According to a complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office, Ashby contacted the woman in August on a social-media platform using the online moniker “Jason Brandon,” and offered her a large sum of money.
The victim agreed to communicate with him on another electronic messaging application and engaged in a nude video chat with the defendant, the complaint said.
Ashby recorded parts of their video chat without her knowledge and later sent her messages demanding $40 to delete a nude photo of her, the complaint said. The victim paid the $40 through an online payment platform.
But the defendant then sent the victim messages demanding all of the money in her bank account and threatening to disseminate nude photos to her college and social media friends, the complaint said.
“Your expose page is being created right now,” Ashby wrote, according to the complaint. “You’re dumb if you thought this was over its not over until my $134 is sent I’ll make sure our whole school sees your nudes.”
The victim became distraught and ingested prescription pills to calm her distress, the complaint said. She was rushed to an emergency room in an ambulance and recovered, but while she was hospitalized, Ashby allegedly began advertising the nude photos on various online accounts. “Everyone [message] me to see [the victim’s] nudes,” one social media post said.
“Ashby’s alleged exploitation and manipulation of this victim are abhorrent,” Williams said in announcing the arrest. She urged other victims to come forward so that offenders can be prosecuted.
“Protect yourself and avoid falling victim to this type of scheme. And if you have been victimized, know that you are not alone and should not be shamed into silence,” Williams said. “These criminals are counting on your silence to get away with it; don’t let them.”
Michael J. Driscoll, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, which investigated the case, said the FBI is seeing more and more sextortion cases, with victims of all ages.
“Terrorizing someone with threats to release their explicit images is unconscionable,” Driscoll said. “Imagine the emotional toll it takes on a victim, living in fear of being so personally exposed. ... It’s not some sick game, it’s a crime, and the FBI will continue to unmask these cyber predators and hold them firmly accountable.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release and a $250,000 fine.