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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ventura County Man Busted|on Sextortion Charges

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A Ventura County man was arrested Wednesday on "sextortion" charges - using social networking sites to extort more than a dozen girls and boys into sending him naked photos and videos, federal prosecutors said.

Jeremy Brendan Sears, 23, of Moorpark, is charged with child pornography, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

An FBI agent said in a lengthy affidavit that Sears approached his victims by setting up bogus profiles of himself on Facebook and other sites, such as fan sites for (nonparty) Justin Bieber and other teen heartthrobs, then entering into romantic online relationships and having the children send him explicit videos and photos.

"On other occasions, Sears threatened to harm the real-life teens or their loved-ones unless they sent him naked images," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. "In some cases, after receiving the images of the underage victims, Sears would distribute those images, along with the victims' names and personal information, to other members of his online social networking groups or to publicly accessible websites. In one case, Sears gained access to a victim's Facebook account and posted naked photos of her on her own profile page, where they could be seen by her friends and schoolmates. Once Sears had photos of a victim, he commonly used the threat of further harassment and distribution to extort more images."

Sears on Wednesday was ordered held without bond on two charges of producing child pornography. He will be arraigned on May 20.

Prosecutors said that anyone who believes he or she may have been victimized by Sears should contact the FBI in Ventura at (805) 642-3995 or the Ventura County Sheriff's Department at (805) 654-9511.

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