A Florida man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison after being accused of posing as a teenage girl on popular gaming websites and blackmailing a teenage boy for sexual content, officials announced.
Shane Penczak, 45, was arrested in 2022 by North Port police when it was reported he was inappropriately communicating with a 13-year-old boy from Winslow, New Jersey, WFLA reported.
Penczak targeted the boy through Discord, an online chat room popular among gamers, and Roblox, another platform used by the gaming community, particularly children, according to an Aug. 10 news release from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office.
Penczak went onto the sites with the username “xboxdiamondgirl2683” and pretended to be a teenage girl, according to the release.
For about a year, the man said he was a 14- or 15-year-old girl from California, WFLA reported.
He began chatting with the boy online and sent him electronic gift cards in exchange for nude photographs, the Attorney General said.
After the child sent him the photos, Penczak blackmailed the boy, saying he would release the photos if the child didn’t send him videos of himself performing “vulgar sex acts,” the release said.
This included live-streaming himself to Penczak while he took showers among other graphic requests, WFLA reported.
As multiple law enforcement agencies began investigating Penczak’s online presence, they found he had contacted other minors using multiple usernames connected to his “xboxdiamondgirl2683” account, and had messages that included images of child sexual abuse, according to the release.
“This 45-year-old sex offender posed as a minor girl on online gaming sites to lure young boys into sending nude photographs to then blackmail the victims,” Moody said in the release. “As a mother, I am enraged at this offender’s actions, and I implore other parents to monitor their children’s internet usage and speak to them about online safety.”
About 60% of Roblox users are under the age of 16, according to 2022 data published by Statista. Of those, 22% are under age 9.
More than 22% of Discord users are between ages 16 and 24, according to 2022 data from Statista.
Penczak pleaded guilty to eight felony counts, including lewd or lascivious battery, use of a child in a sexual performance, promotion of a child in a sexual performance, possession of child pornography, use of a computer to solicit illegal acts and transmission of harmful material to a minor.
He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, followed by 15 years in a sex-offender probation program to monitor his activities after his release, according to the release.
Penczak was a resident of North Port, about 85 miles south of Tampa, when the crimes were committed.
Teach online safety
To keep children safe online, Moody gave these tips:
Be aware of what sites and apps a child is using
Make sure a child’s social media accounts are set on private
Do not allow children to input a fake age to access sites with older individuals
Explain that an online profile might not represent the person behind it
Explain that something cannot be taken back once it is posted on the internet
Provide safe outlets for a child to ask for help or ask uncomfortable questions