Man Charged With Extorting Girl Into Sending Him Sexual Content Over Snapchat

The Massachusetts girl was coerced and threatened into sending images of her having sex in June 2020, prosecutors said

NBC Connecticut

A man in Chicago has been charged with threatening and coercing a teenage girl into sending him sexually explicit images over Snapchat, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Ernesto Herrera allegedly received over 1,000 images from the 16-year-old girl, including several showing child pornography, through the popular social media app. The 33-year-old was arrested in June 2021 and has been held in jail since, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts.

"Mr. Herrera allegedly used social media to target, threaten and rob a child of their innocence," U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement, adding that her office "will aggressively pursue those who prey on the vulnerable and helpless."

The Massachusetts girl was coerced and threatened into sending images of her having sex in June 2020, prosecutors said. They didn't say how Herrera allegedly coerced the images from the girl or how they discovered the alleged behavior.

It wasn't immediately clear if Herrera had an attorney who could speak to the charges he faces, coercion and enticement of a minor, sexual exploitation of children and receiving child pornography. If convicted, he faces 10 years to life in prison for the coercion and enticement of a minor charge.

The top FBI agent in Boston, Joseph Bonavolonta, said he hoped the charges against Herrera would deter others from committing such crimes.

"Sadly, online predators seeking to exploit children are becoming too common, and we urge parents and guardians to pay attention to what your children are doing online. Make it clear to them that they are not to blame if they fall victim to a predator and contact law enforcement right away if you suspect something is wrong," he said in a statement.

"Sextortion" schemes targeting young boys are on the rise in Massachusetts, federal authorities say.

The FBI has warned that it's seen a "huge increase" in digital sextortion cases, including in Massachusetts.

"The person may claim to already have a revealing picture or video of a child that will be shared if the victim does not send more pictures. More often, however, this crime starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. The adult will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a young person to produce an image," an FBI page on the practice says. https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/sextortion

Anyone who feels they're being extorted can contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or at tips.fbi.gov.

An FBI poster explaining what sextortion is.
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