Gaithersburg Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges for Receipt of Child Pornography and Extortion By Threat to Ruin the Reputation of Another
Admitted Threatening at Least 11 Minor Victims to Obtain Sexually Explicit Images
Greenbelt, Maryland – Zhi Tian Lang, age 23, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, pleaded guilty on September 25, 2019, to receipt of child pornography and to extortion by threat to ruin the reputation of another. Lang admitted that he threatened to post revealing photos of the victims on social media and other Internet platforms if they did not send him sexually explicit photographs and/or videos of themselves.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Acting Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department.
According to his guilty plea, between at least January and October 2014 Lang communicated with minor female victims ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old and located throughout the United States, including South Dakota, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. Lang used an Internet messaging application and used the name “Seth” when contacting his victims. Lang would obtain pictures of minor victims from their social media accounts or through direct flirtation. The picture often depicted the victims in their underwear. Lang would then demand that unless the victim provided him with nude pictures, he would post the initial pictures on a public Internet account or send them directly to one or more of the victim’s acquaintances.
As detailed in his plea agreement, at least eight minor victims provided Lang sexually explicit photos and/or videos of themselves in response to Lang’s threats. Lang admitted that he posted photographs of minor victims to coerce them and sent at least one photo to another individual.
As a result of his conviction, Lang will be required to register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Unless indigent, Lang will also be required to pay a special assessment of $5,000.
Lang faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison for receipt of child pornography and a maximum of two years in prison for extortion by threat to ruin the reputation of another. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has scheduled sentencing for January 8, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the "Resources" tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI and the Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph R. Baldwin, who is prosecuting the federal case.
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