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Indiana ISP owner charged with 'sextortion' of minors; hundreds of victims might have been targeted

U.S. Justice Dept.

Richard Leon Finkbiner

The owner of an Internet service provider in Indiana has been charged with blackmailing children into performing sexually explicit acts over webcams, authorities said Monday.

Richard Leon Finkbiner, age 39, of Brazil, Ind., about 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis, was charged in a federal complaint last week with sexual exploitation of children. The allegations involve two 14-year-old boys, but the FBI said in court documents that it found thousands of sexually explicit images and videos on Finkbiner's computer that suggest "several hundred" other victims.

Authorities said the "sextortion" scheme worked this way:

Using the pseudonym "Josh Swaim," Finkbiner would befriend young boys on social media and capture sexually explicit video of them they had uploaded on what they thought was an anonymous video chat site, the complaint alleges.

He would then tell them that if they didn't record more sexually explicit videos, he would release the clips online or send them to their friends, it says. 

M. Alex Johnson

M. Alex Johnson is a reporter for msnbc.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

In both cases the government revealed Monday, the IP address of the computer being used was tracked back to Clay County Internet in Brazil. Indiana business records list it as an Internet service provider of which Finkbiner is owner and president.

In the criminal complaint, Finkbiner is quoted as telling one victim that he was a hacker who knew how to remain anonymous, but the FBI makes it clear that he didn't, really.

"Analysis of FINKBINER's computer and other digital media uncovered thousands of video files depicting hundreds of individuals on various states of undress or engaged in sexually explicit conduct," the FBI said in court documents. "Many, if not most, of these individuals appear to be between the ages of 14-16 years of age," it said.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett told reporters that Finkbiner would threaten to "make these images available to people close to [the victims], which was designed to frighten them." 

At various times, Hogsett alleged, Finkbiner threatened to out the children to their parents, friends, coaches or even pastors. The complaint adds that he also threatened to post some of the images to gay pornographic websites. 

"Only I have this link," he allegedly wrote to one victim, asking: "You want to play this game or you want to be a gay porn star?"

To another, he allegedly acknowledged, "yes it is illegal im ok with that," warning: "if u don't play I promise ill f*** ur life over...I won't get caught im a hacker I covered my tracks."

The level of terror the alleged threats caused is chillingly revealed in the transcript of an email message one of the boys sent to Finkbiner's Hotmail address: 

"All I ask you for is to delete it please im onlyh 14 please just to this to somebody else not me please."

Finkbiner was held pending a probable cause hearing Wednesday in Terre Haute. If convicted, he could face 30 years in federal prison.

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