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'Sextortion' scheme: Feds accuse Indiana man of exploiting boys

April 09, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • This photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Indianapolis shows Richard Leon Finkbiner, 39, of Brazil, Ind. Federal prosecutors say Finkbiner may have coerced teenage boys across the country into sexual activity that he recorded online. Court documents say that FBI investigators found sexually explicit videos showing hundreds of teenagers on Finkbiner's computer.
This photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Indianapolis… (AP Photo/U.S. Attorney's…)

An Indiana computer company owner is being held on two federal counts of sexually exploiting a child in what authorities on Monday said could become the nation’s biggest case of “sextortion” – blackmailing minors into becoming the objects of sexually explicit photographs or videos.

Richard Leon Finkbiner, 39, was arrested Friday at his home in Brazil, Ind., and charged with forcing at least two minors to engage in sexually explicit activity that Finkbiner allegedly captured with a webcam, said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Joseph H. Hogsett at a news conference Monday. Finkbiner is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Although Finkbiner has been charged with two counts, investigators have discovered “thousands of sexually explicit images and videos depicting hundreds of individuals, which may indicate the existence of many other victims,” officials said. Hogsett told reporters that the case could become the largest of its kind in the nation.

“As a member of the law enforcement community, and more importantly, as a parent, these are the types of cases that keep me up at night,” Hogsett said. “This defendant may not remember his alleged victims, but the true tragedy is that not one of them will ever forget.”

Officials distributed a photograph of Finkbiner and urged other victims to contact the Indianapolis Cybersquad Division of the FBI at (877) 542-8979.

According to the federal complaint, Finkbiner is charged with making online contact with two 14-year-old boys, one in Michigan and one in Maryland. In both cases, Finkbiner is alleged to have sent the boys explicit clips of themselves that he had captured online. He then threatened to release the images to gay porn websites or to the boys’ friends unless they recorded sexually explicit videos for him via webcam, the complaint charges.

“So u wanna play or b a famous gay porn star?” the complaint states that Finkbiner allegedly asked the Michigan boy.

The boy pleaded with him to delete the images: “u know that I under age and that is against the law and u could be arrested for this.”

The complaint goes on to state that Finkbiner allegedly responded: “yes it is illegal im ok with that…I won't get caught im a hacker I covered my tracks.”

Investigators tracked the communications to Clay County Internet in Brazil, a company Finkbiner owns that provides website hosting and other computer-related services, according to the complaint.

In the case of the Michigan boy, Finkbiner is alleged to have coerced the minor into producing child pornography for two consecutive evenings after his initial contact in late February 2012. When Finkbiner allegedly demanded that the behavior continue, the boy told family members -- who then called authorities.

If convicted of the two counts, Finkbiner could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, according to officials.

At his news conference, the federal prosecutor praised Indiana officials for their role in the arrest.

“Indiana’s nationally recognized child exploitation prosecution team is at the forefront of such sextortion prosecutions, and our top priority is to keep children safe from this type of horrible abuse,” Hogsett said. “Unfortunately, it appears based on the criminal complaint that there may be many other victims in this case, possibly here in Indiana and across the country.”

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Michael.muskal@latimes.com

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