PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Terrell Ashby, 22, of Williamsburg, VA, was arrested and charged by Complaint for cyberstalking a young woman residing in Delaware County, PA in connection with a “sextortion” scheme.
According to the Complaint, in August 2020, Terrell Ashby used a social-media platform to contact a 20 year-old woman (the victim). Ashby, using the online moniker “Jason Brandon,” sent a message to the victim offering her a large sum of money and enticing her to communicate with him on another electronic messaging application. The victim agreed and subsequently engaged in a nude video chat with the defendant.
Unbeknownst to the victim, Ashby recorded portions of their video chat, and subsequently sent her multiple messages demanding $40 in exchange for deleting a nude photo he had captured of her. Specifically, he wrote, in part, “When you send the $40 I will delete your nudes offline” and “Just send the $40 and you’re good lol[.] We aren’t good until you send the $40[,] simply send the $40 and I’ll delete it[.]” The victim then paid the $40 by transferring money via an online payment platform to an account provided by Ashby.
However, that was not the end of Ashby’s alleged abuse of the victim. The defendant then sent the victim multiple messages demanding all of the money in her bank account. In these messages, Ashby threatened to disseminate the nude photos of the victim to her college and other social media friends and followers if she did not pay him more money. For example, Ashby wrote, in part: “Your expose page is being created right now and I’m also going to tag your college[.] I’ll end you[.] I’m not someone you want to [expletive] with[,] go tell your father that… Just [sent] your nudes to [name redacted][.] Already exposed you whore[.] Your life is over[.] You’re dumb if you thought this was over its not over until my $134 is sent[.] I’ll make sure our whole school sees your nudes[.]”
As a result of the defendant’s alleged conduct, the victim became distraught and ingested a number of prescription pills in an attempt to calm her emotional distress. She was rushed to an emergency room in an ambulance and ultimately recovered. While she was hospitalized, Ashby began advertising the nude photos of the victim using various online accounts. For example, the defendaNt posted a photo of the victim on a social-media platform, using an account named “[name redacted]sextape” with the following caption: “Everyone [message] me to see [the victim] nudes … she [video chatted] me naked I have the full [video chat] call saved [message] me to see everyone.”
Ashby was arrested at his residence in Williamsburg, Virginia this morning and is expected to appear before a magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia later this afternoon.
“As detailed in the Complaint, Ashby’s alleged exploitation and manipulation of this victim are abhorrent,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams. “Protect yourself and avoid falling victim to this type of scheme. And if you have been victimized, know that you are not alone and should not be shamed into silence. Please come forward so that we can investigate and prosecute the offenders. These criminals are counting on your silence to get away with it; don’t let them.”
“Terrorizing someone with threats to release their explicit images is unconscionable,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Imagine the emotional toll it takes on a victim, living in fear of being so personally exposed. Unfortunately, the FBI is seeing more and more sextortion cases, with people of all ages targeted. It’s not some sick game, it’s a crime, and the FBI will continue to unmask these cyber predators and hold them firmly accountable.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, 3 years’ supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Philadelphia FBI, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Wolfe. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia also provided assistance in the investigation.
A criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.