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Temecula college student arrested on federal 'sextortion' charges

FBI says he hacked into webcams of women, including Miss Teen USA, to get nude photos and extorted more photos or web chats from them.

September 26, 2013|By Richard Winton

A 19-year-old Temecula college freshman was taken into custody Thursday on federal charges he "sextorted" newly crowned Miss Teen USA and other young women around the world by hijacking their computer's webcams to capture naked images.

Jared James Abrahams allegedly commandeered webcams of unsuspecting women in Canada, Ireland, Russia and across the United States, a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday said.

After hacking into the webcams to obtain nude photos and videos, Abrahams allegedly used them to blackmail females as young as 16 to provide even more images, videos or live chat sessions.

If they refused, the complaint states, he would post their images on the Internet to humiliate them.

Abrahams allegedly threatened to transform reigning Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf 's "dream of being a model ... into a porn star" if the victim did not comply with his demands, according to a court record.

Wolf, who was Miss California Teen USA before winning the Miss Teen USA pageant in August, discussed the incident on the "Today Show" before Abrahams was arrested.

The FBI investigation was sparked after Wolf alerted authorities in March to a change in her Facebook password and an alleged sextortion demand from a person authorities said they later identified as Abraham.

Abrahams allegedly changed her Twitter account photo to a half-naked image of her and then sent her two images of her naked that were taken inside her home by her webcam months earlier, according to the criminal complaint.

The complaint identifies at least seven victims identified by initials only — several from the Temecula area — and said that once confronted, Abrahams admitted his crimes in an interview with an FBI special agent.

One of the victims, a 17-year-old from Ireland, reluctantly disrobed on his orders during a Skype session, according to a Sept 19 affidavit.

"Please remember I'm 17. Have a heart," the affidavit quotes the girl as saying. "Abrahams allegedly responded: "I'll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart. However, I do stick to my deals. Also age doesn't mean a thing to me!!!".

When FBI agents first raided his Temecula home in June and seized computers and hardware, cellphones and hacking software, they found evidence that he had commandeered 30 to 40 computers and gathered images of victims in Southern California, Maryland, Ireland, Canada, Russia and Moldova, according to the criminal complaint

FBI officials added that Abrahams bragged on a hacker forum how he had installed malware on the computer of "this girl who happens to be a model..."

Abrahams was being held on $50,000 bail Thursday. A judge ordered that Abrahams, if freed, must wear a GPS tracker and would be prohibited from using a computer for anything other than academic work.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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