BUFFALO, N.Y. –U.S. Attorney William Hochul held a news conference Tuesday to address the serious issue of the cyber stalking of children and teens following the sentencing of a man arrested for the production of child pornography and cyber stalking.
James Allen, 38, from New Baltimore, Michigan, who was convicted of production of child pornography and cyber stalking, was sentenced to 262 months in prison and 10 years of supervised release on Monday.
Between April and August of 2012, Allen used the internet and text messages to stalk, communicate with and threaten 18 females from Western New York to obtain pornographic pictures of them. Most of the victims were minors.
Hochul says Allen used a fake website to get the victims information so that he could obtain their private e-mail addresses and passwords.
After Allen had the victim’s passwords, he contacted the victims and told them that he found naked pictures of them on the internet and threatened to distribute their photos if they did not Skype with him. Many of the victims suffered substantial emotional distress after the repeated harassment.
The sentencing was a result of work by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task force, which includes the Buffalo Police Department, Cheektowaga Police Department, Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and the Kenmore Police Department.
Police were able to arrest Allen in Michigan after one of the victims came forward about the harassment. Then the FBI was able was able to crack an encrypted hard drive that contained pictures of all of the victims.
During the news conference, Hochul expressed the importance to parents to have an open discussion with their children about the internet.
Hochul said that the internet can be an extremely useful and education tool for many people, but it also provides “shadows” for people like Allen to abuse and exploit minors.
Hochul urged parents to have the “Tech Talk” with their children, and to educate then about using devices safely. He also said that if anything appears strange, parents should talk to their children or children should talk to their parents about the situation.
Other members of law enforcement present also stressed that in the new age of media, you cannot assume that once a picture is taken it will be safe.
Edward Suk, the Executive Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in New York, also spoke about the importance of parents having conversations with their children early about being safe on the internet.
Suk talked about how the victims were blackmailed into sending explicit pictures of them to Allen. He explained how in these cases 70 percent of the time, the victims are females and the average age is 15. Because of this, they are working hard to not only prosecute crimes once they happen, but also prevent them from happening in the first place.
There are several tools online that parents can use in order to start the conversations with their children on how to be safe online, the links are below.