Three Nigerian men await extradition to the US to face charges of using false identities on Instagram in online sextortion campaigns that led to the suicide of a teenage boy, the Department of Justice (DoJ) says.
A federal court in Michigan unsealed the charges on May 3rd against Samuel Ogoshi, 22, Samson Ogoshi, 20, and Ezekiel Robert, 19, all of Lagos, Nigeria, after the FBI traveled there and worked with local police to secure their arrests.
On March 25th last year, Jordan DeMay, 17, of Marquette, Michigan, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
It’s alleged that Jordan was driven to commit suicide after being lured online into sharing explicit images of himself with Samuel, who’s said to have posed as a female love interest on Instagram while using Google to research his victim for the purposes of sexual blackmail.
The DoJ claims that Samuel disguised himself using the Instagram alias “dani.robertts,” tricking Jordan into sending a nude photo of himself. It further alleges that Samuel and his accomplices carried out the despicable ruse on more than 100 victims.
“After initiating chat conversations with the victims, the defendants simultaneously used Google and other online applications to research information about the victims, including where the victims lived, where they went to school or worked, and who their family and friends were,” said the DoJ.
“Once the defendants received sexually explicit images, they created collages that included the sexually explicit image alongside other images of the victims from social media, including images of the victims’ school, family, and friends,” it added. “The defendants then threatened to disclose the collages to others, including the family, friends, and classmates, of their victims via social media unless the victims paid money.”
Merciless and mercenary
Paying off the sextortionist wasn’t enough to secure Jordan his peace of mind but instead led him into a cycle of despair that ultimately ended in his death, the DoJ alleges.
A transcript of the exchanges between the victim and Samuel, using the Instagram alias dani.robertts, appear to show the latter extorting Jordan out of $300.
“Goodbye. Enjoy your miserable life,” dani.robertts says after taking the payment, according to the transcript, which then shows the victim responding “I’m kms rn [I’m going to kill myself right now].”
“Good. Do that fast. Or I’ll make you do it. I swear to God,” the transcript shows dani.robertts replying.
Tragically, Jordan appears to have subsequently complied.
Another transcript showing an exchange between the dani.robertts persona and a second victim also includes encouragements to commit suicide.
“I will make you regret you life. I will make u commit suicide. I promise you I swear [sic],” dani.robertts says in this exchange.
Nigeria is cooperating
Upon getting wind of the sextortion campaign, Michigan FBI agents reached out to authorities in Nigeria, traveling there earlier this year.
This led to local police body the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arresting the two Ogoshis and third accomplice Robert, who now face extradition to the US where they will stand trial.
If convicted, Samuel faces between 30 years and life in prison for attempted sexual exploitation of a minor leading to death.
Additional to that, all three suspects face 15 to 30 years for inducing minors to create child pornographic images, and another five to 20 years for conspiracy to disseminate the same.
Finally, the alleged gang members also face another five years on cyberstalking charges if found guilty.
“Sextortion is a horrible crime that can leave especially younger victims feeling ashamed with nowhere to turn,” said US Attorney Mark Totten. “Nothing can bring Jordan back, but my office is committed to securing justice and, alongside Jordan’s family, sending an urgent warning so others can protect themselves and their families. We will travel the world to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable.”
How to protect your children
Fortunately, there are tools now available that can help protect vulnerable teenagers who understandably don’t want explicit images they may have taken or allowed to be taken of themselves in the heat of the moment to be later used against them.
Announcing the extradition order, the DoJ also urged concerned parents and children to make use of TakeItDown, a free service set up by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“Take It Down works by assigning a unique digital fingerprint, called a hash value, to nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit images or videos of people under the age of 18,” the service explains on its website. “Online platforms can use hash values to detect these images or videos on their services and remove this content. This all happens without the image or video ever leaving your device or anyone viewing it.”
Bereaved relatives of Jordan have added their voices to the call to arms against cybercrimes that target the most vulnerable in society.
“Our focus going forward is to bring more awareness to children, young adults, and parents. Our family has forever been changed by this heinous crime and our objective is to prevent another individual from being victimized,” said the DeMay family.
“Kids, teenagers, and even adults can be a target of sextortion,” it added. “We urge you to have discussions about this and have a plan for your children to reach out if it does happen to them. Jordan will never be forgotten. He will forever be in our hearts and will drive us forward to share his story and help others.”
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