(FOX/CNS) -A 19-year-old college student who perpetrated an online "sextortion" scheme targeting women and girls, including this year's Miss Teen USA, pleaded guilty today to extortion in a Santa Ana courtroom.
Jared James Abrahams of Temecula was charged in September after an FBI investigation revealed he had contacted multiple victims worldwide with threats of distributing revealing snapshots, obtained illegally, unless they yielded to his various sexually-oriented demands.During a change-of-plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Arthur Nakazato, Abrahams dropped his not guilty plea and acknowledged responsibility for his actions.
Abrahams remains free on bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for March 17. Abrahams could face more than two years behind bars and $1 million in fines.
Beginning last year and continuing through June of this year, the freshman computer science major gained access to computers, email accounts and the social media accounts of his victims to obtain photos of them, sometimes nude, that were taken from webcams, according to the plea agreement.
Abrahams threatened to embarrass the victims, including the reigning Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, by posting nude photos of them online if they did not agree to have online video phone conversations with him or send him more lewd photos of themselves, according to court papers.
The defendant "extorted at least 12 young women in their late teens or early twenties in this manner," the plea agreement states.
The victims, who are identified only by their initials in the agreement, were particularly vulnerable because of their age, "and at least one of the victims, C.W., was vulnerable to defendant's threats because she was a model," according to the agreement.
The defendant used "hacking software" to control 100-150 computers of victims, according to the prosecution's statement of facts.
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