He was using Snapchat to communicate with the children, according to Michigan police.
But if the children didn’t send the Adrian, Michigan, man what he was asking for (graphic pictures of themselves or of other kids) the man would threaten them, police said. The man essentially extorted the children, some as young as 10, by telling them he would hack into their online accounts if they didn’t meet his demands, according to police.
Police raided the man’s home in Adrian on Wednesday and arrested him as part of an investigation into sexually abusive material involving children, police announced Thursday. Evidence police took from the suspect’s home during the search is being sent to the Michigan State Police Computer Crimes Unit in Lansing for analysis.
Police have withheld the suspect’s name pending his arraignment. He is being held at the Lenawee County Jail, police said.
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The suspect faces possession of child sexually abusive material charges.
Police said that “numerous images of yet unidentified children have been recovered.” Authorities encouraged anyone who thinks they may know of more victims to contact Adrian police.
Snapchat (the medium police said the man used to extort the children) allows users of its popular phone app to swap images, videos and text messages, some of which vanish after they’re viewed.
And it’s not the first time Snapchat has been implicated in the spread of sexually abusive material involving children.
Just last month, a Texas man was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he confessed to storing homemade child pornography in the “memories” feature of his Snapchat account. His friend uncovered the crime by chance when she logged into his account.
Experts told Bloomberg last year that child porn is a particularly thorny problem on Snapchat because unlike on other platforms, photos and messages on the app can disappear by design — making it easier for abusers to hide their crimes.
“Predators know that they can contact kids on Snapchat,” Melissa Travis-Neal, an Oklahoma attorney general’s office investigator, told Bloomberg. “They know this is the popular app that kids are on. They both use it to contact kids and they use it to send and receive child pornography, and they think they’re not going to be tracked.”