TEMECULA, Calif. — A college student was arrested Thursday for allegedly hijacking the webcams of young women — among them reigning Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf — taking nude images, then blackmailing his victims to send him more explicit material or else be exposed.
Jared James Abrahams, a 19-year-old computer science student from Temecula, California, surrendered on Thursday to the FBI on federal extortion charges, the agency announced. Authorities say he victimized young women surreptitiously, by taking control of their computers then photographing them as they changed out of their clothes.
When he admitted what he’d done in June, Abrahams said he had 30 to 40 “slave computers” — or other people’s electronic devices he controlled — and has had as many as 150 total, according to a criminal complaint.
His arrest came six months after a teenager identified in court documents as C.W. alerted authorities. She has since publicly identified herself as Cassidy Wolf, the recently crowned Miss Teen USA. She touted news reports of her alleged tormenter’s arrest on her Twitter feed.
Good for Miss Wolf for going straight to the police and getting this evil perv busted. She has probably saved countless other women from similar harassment and fear.
Wolf got a Facebook alert that someone had tried to change her password to the social networking site, then noticed other passwords had been changed and that her Twitter avatar was now a half-nude picture of herself.
A short time later, she received what would be the first of many messages, this one featuring pictures of Wolf at her Riverside County address and others apparently taken months earlier when she lived in Orange County, says the criminal complaint. The message explained “what’s going to happen” if Wolf didn’t send pictures or videos or “do what I tell you to do” in a five-minute Skype videoconference, according to the criminal complaint.
“Either you do one of the things listed below or I upload these pics and a lot more (I have a LOT more and those are better quality) on all your accounts for everybody to see and your dream of being a model will be transformed into a pornstar (sic),” he wrote.
Investigators examining e-mail exchanges found one in which an alleged victim wrote she was downloading Skype and pleading, “Please remember im only 17. Have a heart.”
“I’ll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart!!!” he wrote back, per the complaint. “However I do stick to my deals! Also age doesn’t mean a thing to me.”
As we introduce more online cameras into our homes, we become more vulnerable to some very smart, truly evil people worldwide. I recommend putting a square of black electrical tape over your laptop webcam when you’re not using it. It’s cheap but effective.