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FBI arrests Temecula man, 19, in 'sextortion' of Miss Teen USA

Law EnforcementBlackmail and ExtortionCyber CrimeFBIMiss Teen USACrime, Law and JusticeJustice System

The FBI has arrested a 19-year-old Temecula man who authorities believe to be involved in a "sextortion" case involving Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf from Orange County, officials said Thursday.

Jared James Abrahams is accused of cybercrimes for allegedly hacking into victims' accounts, according to charges unsealed Thursday.

Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman, confirmed that Abrahams had been taken into custody. 

Investigators have identified several other victims in the case.

Wolf, who was Miss California Teen USA before winning the Miss Teen USA pageant in August at the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas, said in media interviews that she received an anonymous email from someone claiming to have nude photos of her taken via the webcam on her computer.

Wolf also said the email's author tried to extort her to ensure that the photos were not made public.

According to the affidavit, which does not name the victims, the FBI has been investigating Abrahams since March, when authorities learned he allegedly compromised victims’ computers to obtain nude photographs -- and in some cases, videos --- of the victims by remotely operating the victims’ web-enabled cameras.

He would then allegedly contact the victims using two AOL accounts he had taken over and send the victims nude photos to show what he had obtained. Abrahams, investigators allege, threatened to disclose the images and videos unless they did one of three things: send nude photos, send a nude video, or log onto Skype and did what he said for five minutes.

In one instance, a special agent alleges Abrahams threatened to transform one victim's “dream of being a model ... into [the victim being] a porn star” if the victim did not comply with his demands.

FBI agents raided Abrahams' Temecula home in June and seized computers and hardware, cellphones  and hacking software, court records show. 

The incident is the latest in a string of "sextortion" cases involving individuals who have used email accounts, social media or a computer's own hardware to glean compromising information or images of its user.

In December, 35-year-old Christopher Chaney of Florida was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for procuring naked images of celebrities and other members of the entertainment industry -- including Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and Scarlett Johansson -- by hacking into their email accounts.

And a Glendale man, Karen “Gary” Kazaryan, pleaded guilty in July in a “sextortion” case in which he targeted 350 women and coerced them into showing him pictures of them naked.

In that case, prosecutors said Kazaryan hacked into the Facebook, Skype and email accounts of his victims to coerce them into removing their clothing on camera.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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