New charges in global Facebook sextortion case
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A 31-year-old Montgomery, Alabama man is facing new criminal charges in connection with an online sextortion plot that investigators believe now spans the globe.
Christopher Patrick Gunn was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Montgomery with two counts of production of child pornography, three counts of interstate extortion, and three counts of using a facility of interstate commerce in furtherance of unlawful activity.
Those indictments are in addition to the two counts of possession of child pornography with which he had already been charged, U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr., explained.
In total, Gunn now faces a ten-count indictment that accuses him of using a computer on numerous occasions over a two year span to threaten hundreds of young girls between the ages of 9 and 16.
Police say the man used numerous fake Facebook profiles to extort young females Investigators say among the pictures that Gunn possessed were several of young girls posing in various states of undress. The photos appear to have been made by the girls themselves using their cell phone cameras.
START OF INVESTIGATION
Authorities began probing Gunn's actions in April 2011 when female students from Prattville Junior High School (located approximately 15 miles outside Montgomery) began complaining that they had been solicited for inappropriate pictures via the social networking site Facebook.
A trace of the IP address connected to the account led detectives to Gunn's residence in Montgomery for which warrants were obtained and executed. Authorities say the computers seized from Gunn's home provided a wealth of evidence that unraveled a major sextortion plot.
Investigators in neighboring states launched their own investigations into allegations of inappropriate contact with minors. In September 2011, the Biloxi Police Department in Mississippi as well as the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana determined that the same crimes were being committed in their jurisdictions. Further probes lead both departments to the belief that the perpetrator was someone in the Montgomery area.
Details from the three investigations helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation develop evidence that pointed to Gunn as the suspect in each case. FBI agents raided the man's residence on March 20, 2012, recovering a cell phone and laptop computer which they say held images and videos of child pornography.
The FBI says it is currently working to identify additional victims of both schemes in numerous other states, including Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and California.
If convicted of the charges currently pending against him, Gunn faces no less than 15 years and as much as 100 years in federal prison. He could also be ordered to spend the rest of his life on supervised release.
SOME VICTIMS IDENTFIED
The indictment charges Gunn with extorting three identified young girls. Each is from Louisiana, though not named for protective reasons. Two of the girls are 14 and 15. The third's age is not released. The FBI is working to identify more victims in numerous other states, including Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and California.
GUNN'S METHOD OF OPERATION
The superceded indictment against Gunn accusing him of using two methods of deception in order to further extort innocent minors.
- "The New Kid Ruse" -
Police say this Gunn started started using this method in 2009 and continued until at least August 2011. Gunn is alleged to have contacted the girls via Facebook, pretending to be a new kid in town looking for friends. After gaining the victims' trust, investigators say the man would move to personal questions. When the victims finished sharing that information, authorities say the suspect would start asking for topless photos. If they refused, they were threatened with possible exposure of their intimate conversations to their school principal or via Facebook for public consumption.
- "The Justin Bieber Ruse" -
This method was used starting around November 2011, and continued until shortly before Gunn was arrested in March 2012. Police say Gunn is alleged to have initiated contact with victims by using internet-based interactive video chat services, such as Skype, where he pretended to be famed pop star Justin Bieber. Once a victim was convinced they were talking to the musician, they were offered concert tickets and other benefits if they would only send topless photos to the suspect.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
If you believe you may have information concerning these or related crimes, you are urged to contact the Montgomery field office of the FBI at (334) 263-1691.
Talk to your children about safe online habits.
INFORMATION SOURCE: U.S. Attorney George Beck, Jr.'s office
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