Georgia Man Pleads Guilty to Extorting Sexual Images and Cyberstalking
BOSTON – A Georgia man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston to extorting a Boston-area woman for videos, photographs and communications of a sexual nature as well as cyberstalking other women over social media.
Gary E. Leach, 24, of Athens, Ga., pleaded guilty to two counts of cyberstalking and one count of extortion through interstate threats. U.S. District Court Judge Angel Kelley scheduled sentencing for April 7, 2022. Leach was arrested and charged on April 23, 2021 and has been on home detention since he was released from custody on May 18, 2021.
From October 2019 until his arrest in April 2021, Leach, then a graduate student at the University of Georgia, targeted a Boston-area woman in an online cyberstalking and extortion campaign. Leach used anonymous Instagram accounts to obtain private video calls and photographs of a sexual nature from the victim through false promises of payment and surreptitiously recorded the victim during these calls. Leach threatened to share the recordings with the victim’s family if she did not continue to send him content of a sexual nature over Instagram and repeatedly harassed and extorted the victim for additional interactions of a sexually explicit and degrading nature.
Leach also cyberstalked other women on social media, including a woman residing in Canada. Leach recorded a video call of a sexual nature with this victim and sent the recording to her roommate. He repeatedly contacted the victim and used the recording to attempt to solicit additional interactions with her. Throughout 2019 and 2020, Leach attempted to solicit video performances of a sexual nature from at least a dozen Instagram users and initiated interactions with numerous other Instagram users for the purpose of exposing himself masturbating.
The charge of stalking by electronic means provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of extortion by interstate threat of injury to reputation provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Holcomb of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.