Man Sentenced to 70 Months in Nationwide Sextortion Case
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan
Used Snapchat to target at least 270 girls and then blackmailed several for sexually explicit images and acts
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Brandon Huu Le, 22, of Maitland, Florida, was sentenced to 70 months in prison for receipt of child pornography in connection with a sextortion scheme using the popular social media app Snapchat. In sentencing Le, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker said the conduct was “heinous” and Le’s threats were “serious, graphic, coercive, and manipulative.” Judge Jonker also commented on the increasing frequency of sextortion schemes and the fact that these schemes cause “harsh results and pain” and “sometimes much worse.”
“Mr. Le’s actions were nothing short of vile,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “They had a devastating impact upon his victims. Sextortion is a growing threat in Michigan and across the nation, and my office will continue to hold these perpetrators accountable. With our law enforcement partners, we stand ready to protect anyone who finds themselves a victim of this crime.”
Video message from U.S. Attorney Totten concerning the Le case.
“Protecting our young people from predators like Brandon Le is a top priority for the FBI and law enforcement agencies across Michigan,” said Devin J. Kowalski, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Today’s sentence should bring some measure of peace to Le’s survivors who very courageously reported his behavior to law enforcement. The community is considerably safer with Le behind bars.
According to court records, Le used social media accounts associated with the alias “Ty Addison” to contact at least 270 girls on Snapchat between August 2019 and December 2019. If a girl responded, Le turned the conversation to sexual topics. Le then began an escalating series of threats. His threats targeted his adolescent victims’ fears and insecurities about their futures, their relationships, their reputations, their bodies and bodily autonomy, and their safety. Le used publicly available information about the girls (for example, their schools and online contacts) to bolster his threats. In some cases, Le threatened girls into turning on their Snapchat location sharing to identify where they lived. He typically threatened to publicly disclose the sexually charged conversation unless the girl sent him an explicit picture, threatened to release the picture unless the girl sent him an explicit video, and threatened to release the video unless the girl engaged in a live video call in which the girl followed sexual commands as Le directed in the chat. His threats included messages such as ““Either f-----g send the pic now or I’m not gonna give your [sic] anymore chances . . . I think you want me to mail to your house now . . . I think you want your parents to see those nudes you sent me . . . Maybe your sisters want to see what a good slut you are” and “[D]o you want me to post your nudes? Do you want to ruin your chances of ever going to a good college? Do you want to ruin your chances of getting a good job?”
Many of Le’s victims were minors and, as they told Le, the images and videos he solicited were child pornography. One of Le’s victims was a 13-year-old girl living in the Western District of Michigan. Some victims begged him to stop; other times parents intervened and told Le to stop, but he persisted—if victims blocked him, he contacted them on other platforms, messaged their friends and family, or followed through on his threats, including in one case sending explicit pictures of a victim to her college’s admissions department.
Copies of the indictment, the government’s sentencing memorandum, and the government’s sentencing exhibits are attached below.
The FBI provides the following tips on how people can protect themselves from sextortion schemes:
- Be selective about what you share online. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
- Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that people are who they claim to be. Images can be altered or stolen. In some cases, predators have even taken over the social media accounts of their victims.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on one game or app and this person asks you to start talking on a different platform.
- Be in the know. Any content you create online—whether it is a text message, photo, or video—can be made public. And nothing actually “disappears” online. Once you send something, you don’t have any control over where it goes next.
- Be willing to ask for help. If you are getting messages or requests online that don’t seem right, block the sender, report the behavior to the site administrator, or go to an adult. If you have been victimized online, tell someone.
If you have information about or believe you are a victim of sextortion, contact your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at http://tips.fbi.gov. More information is available at https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/safety-resources/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/sextortion .
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Coplay (Pennsylvania) Police Department, and the Maitland (Florida) Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Townshend represented the United States.
Updated August 30, 2023
Project Safe Childhood