JACKSONVILLE, Florida -- The FBI is reaching out to the public to ask for help in identifying victims of an online sextorition scheme.
Last year, following a long investigation, 24-year-old Lucas Michael Chansler of Jacksonville, Florida, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child pornography production and was sentenced to 105 years.
At least 350 girls have been determined to be victims of Chansler’s scheme, though investigators have only identified about 110 of them, which is why the FBI is reaching out to the public to try and locate and help the remainder of the victims.
The scheme worked by Chansler using fake online accounts to message teenage girls. He would pose as a 15-year-old boy who liked to skateboard, and would ask for nude pictures of the teenage girls. In some cases, he threatened the girls by saying he already had sexually explicit videos or photos of them, and would send those materials to the victims’ friends and family.
Victims have been located in 26 states, Canada and the United Kingdom -- including at least one case in Wisconsin.
In 2008, one 14-year-old victim says she was contacted by a person saying he was 14 and had sexual pics of her. He told her he’d send the images to all her Myspace friends if she didn’t send him a new topless picture. She didn’t hear from him for some time, and then in 2009 he instant messaged her again and asked for more nude photos. She ignored him, but he must have hacked her online accounts and got her phone number, and he texted her threatening her again.
The victim’s mother found the images on her computer, and confronted her daughter. They then called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to report the crime, and investigators linked one of the screen names he used to another case in another state.
Through that information, investigators pinpointed the origin of the online messages to an account in Florida, and they arrested Chansler. At his home they found a computer with thousands of pictures and videos of child pornography, as well as folders with detailed information about the victims.
Chansler told agents after his arrest that he chose girls who were younger than 15 because “older girls wouldn’t fall for his ploy,” Speical Agent Larry Meyer, a veteran agent in the FBI’s Jacksonville Division who worked on this case, said.
Meyer also said the reason the FBI is reaching out is to find victims “who have not had closure and who probably haven’t obtained counseling and other help they might need.” He noted that while some victims have had support to move on, others haven’t, and some have even dropped out of school or tried to commit suicide.
Here is how Meyer described Chansler’s scheme:
"The girls are apparently having a sleepover, and Chansler contacted one of them through a random online chat. These girls thought they were having a video chat session with a 15-year-old boy that they would never see or hear from again, so they are all exposing themselves, not realizing that he is doing a screen capture and then he’s coming back later—very often in a different persona—saying, ‘Hey I’ve got these pictures of you, and if you don’t want these sent to all your Myspace friends or posted on the Internet, you are going to do all of these naked poses for me.’"
If you think you may have been a victim or Chansler’s scheme, click here.