A Chicago man has been charged with threatening and coercing a teenage girl to send him sexually explicit images on Snapchat, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Ernesto Herrera reportedly received more than 1,000 images of the 16-year-old, including several showing child pornography, via the popular social media app. The 33-year-old man was arrested in June 2021 and has been incarcerated ever since, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
“Mr. Herrera allegedly used social media to target, threaten and rob a child of his or her innocence,” U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement, adding that his office “will aggressively pursue those who prey on the vulnerable and defenseless”.
The Massachusetts girl was coerced and threatened to send images of herself having sex in June 2020, prosecutors said. They did not say how Herrera would have coerced the footage of the girl or how they discovered the alleged behavior.
It was not immediately clear whether Herrera had an attorney who could speak to the charges he faces, coercion and seduction of a minor, sexual exploitation of children and receipt of child pornography. If convicted, he faces 10 years to life in prison for coercion and incitement to a minor charge.
Top Boston FBI agent Joseph Bonavolonta said he hopes the charges against Herrera will deter others from committing such crimes.
“Sadly, online predators seeking to exploit children are becoming all too common, and we urge parents and guardians to pay attention to what your children are doing online. Let them know they are not to blame if they are the victim of a predator and contact law enforcement immediately if you suspect something is wrong,” he said in a statement.
“Sextortion” schemes targeting young boys are on the rise in Massachusetts, according to federal authorities.
The FBI has warned it has seen a “huge increase” in digital sextortion cases, including in Massachusetts.
“The person may claim to already have a revealing photo or video of a child that will be shared if the victim does not send more photos. More often, however, this crime begins when young people believe they are communicating with someone. one their age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who offers something of value The adult will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies or other methods to bring a young to produce an image,” reads an FBI page on the practice. . https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/sextortion
Anyone who feels extorted can contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov.