Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty to Cyberstalking and “Sextorting” Massachusetts College Student
BOSTON – A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Boston to engaging in a “sextortion” campaign against a Boston-area college student.
James F. Connor V, 20, of West Chester, Penn., pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking and one count of extortion. U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for April 7, 2016.
In 2012, Connor and the victim met through social media and developed an online relationship. In the course of that relationship, the victim sent Connor naked pictures of herself through Snapchat and engaged in sexually explicit video chats with him using FaceTime. Connor preserved many of these images without her consent. After the relationship ended, Connor attempted to continue communications with the victim and initiated a campaign of harassment and intimidation. He threatened to harm her physically and harm her reputation by publicly disseminating the sexually explicit images. Connor also repeatedly threatened to commit suicide if the victim did not take his calls, and sent her pictures of him holding a knife to his throat with blood, which was later determined to be fake, dripping down his neck.
In September 2015, Connor escalated his campaign of harassment when he began blackmailing the victim and threatening to send the sexually explicit images to her parents and Twitter followers if she did not send additional naked pictures and engage in sexually explicit video chats with him. As part of Connor’s cyberstalking and sextortion campaign, he sent the victim a detailed list of sexual demands, which included, among other things, that she send him five sexually explicit pictures and have five sexually explicit video chat sessions per week over a five week period. Connor also insisted that she break up with her current boyfriend.
Connor frequently employed a telephone and text message spoofing, or anonymizing, application that allows users to easily change telephone numbers to conceal their identity. In October 2015, Connor was arrested and charged via criminal complaint after the victim reported the threats and prior pattern of harassment to law enforcement authorities.
The charge of cyberstalking carries a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of extortion provides for a sentence of no greater than two years in prison, one year supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordi de Llano of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.