Girls begged a Florida man to stop demanding increasingly sexual images of them — and some of their parents intervened — but still he persisted, authorities said.
Between August 2019 and December 2019, Brandon Huu Le targeted at least 270 girls on Snapchat, according to an Aug. 29 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan. When girls responded, he’d turn conversations sexual and start to threaten them, officials said.
Now, the 22-year-old man from Maitland has been sentenced to 70 months in federal prison in connection to his nationwide “sextortion” scheme, records show. He had pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography earlier this year.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker described Le’s threats as “serious, graphic, coercive, and manipulative” during sentencing.
But they were not just threats, authorities said.
“(Le) was unique in that he followed through with some of these threats, including by emailing explicit pictures to one victim’s college admissions department,” according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.
The defense attorney representing Le did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Aug. 30.
Authorities said Le pretended to be a man named “Ty Addison” on popular social media apps.
“He initiated sexual conversations with a victim, screen-shotted the exchange, and threatened to circulate the conversation unless the victim sent him a sexually explicit picture,” prosecutors said. “Once he received the picture, (Le) threatened to release the picture unless the victim sent him a sexually explicit video.
“Once he received the video, (he) threatened to release the video unless the victim participated in a livestream, engaging in sexual acts that (Le) directed in a chat as he masturbated with his face hidden,” authorities continued.
Many of his victims were minors, officials said, and the images he was soliciting were child pornography. Victims included a 13-year-old girl in Michigan and a girl in Pennsylvania.
His threats targeted the girls’ fears, relationships, reputations, bodies and safety, according to court records. Officials said he demanded some girls to turn on their Snapchat location sharing, so he’d know where they lived.
The man also “used publicly available information about the girls (for example, their schools and online contacts) to bolster his threats,” according to the release.
“Do you want to ruin your chances of ever going to a good college? Do you want to ruin your chances of getting a good job?” one threat said, according to court records.
“You better stop crying unless you want (your parents) to know,” another threatening message said.
Some parents stepped in to tell Le to stop his behavior, court records said, but to no success.
If the girls blocked him, he’d contact them on other platforms, message their friends and family or follow through on threats, authorities said.
“He inflicted physical and emotional injuries that changed victims’ personalities, their perspectives about the world, their family dynamics, and the courses of their lives,” prosecutors said in court records. “When (Le) was done with his victims, they were not done with him.
“They lived for years not knowing who he was, where he was, how he knew details about them, and why he targeted them,” authorities continued. “They spent years not knowing — and still may not know — whether (he) kept the pictures and videos, whether and how far those pictures and videos were circulated, and whether those pictures and videos will resurface somewhere, sometime in the future.”
The FBI provided the following tips that can be used to protect yourself from sextortion schemes:
- Be careful with what you publicly share online. “If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you,” authorities said.
- Ignore messages from people you don’t know, and be cautious of those you meet online for the first time.
- Know that people might not be who they say they are, and videos and photos are not good proof. “Images can be altered or stolen,” officials said. “In some cases, predators have even taken over the social media accounts of their victims.”
- Be suspicious if someone you meet on one app asks to talk with you on another platform.
- Know that anything you post online can be publicly distributed and that nothing actually “disappears.”
- Ask for help if something doesn’t feel right.