A teen’s death in a small Michigan town led the FBI and police to an online sexual extortion scheme

Oct 14, 2023, 12:03 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last year, a teenager in a small Michigan town killed himself after an online chat turned to demands that he pay money to keep intimate photos secret. He was one of dozens of people targeted online by two men extradited from Nigeria to face charges, FBI director Christopher Wray said Saturday.

The arrests came after the FBI joined with police in Michigan to investigate the death of 17-year-old Jordan DeMay, one thousands of American teenagers targeted in a sharp rise in online “sextortion” cases in recent years.

“They will face charges in the U.S. for what they did to Jordan, but also unfortunately, a whole bunch of other young men and teenage boys,” Wray said in an interview with The Associated Press. “You’re talking about a crime that doesn’t respect borders. We make sure our partnerships don’t have any borders either.”

Wray highlighted the case in a speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police about the ways the agency assists police in tackling violent crime, fentanyl and gangs. In a year where tensions between Congress and the FBI have run high at times, Wray focused on the agency’s relationships with U.S. police departments large and small, including some 6,000 task force officers around the country.

“The threats that we face collectively around the country are incredibly daunting,” he said. “By far and away, the most effective means of tackling those threats is teamwork.”

After DeMay’s death in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the FBI joined the investigation by the sheriff’s department in Marquette County and state police. DeMay had thought he was chatting with a girl on Instagram about his own age, and the conversation quickly turned to a request for explicit pictures, authorities said.

But once he shared images of himself, the talk changed to demands for money in exchange for the other side not sending the images to DeMay’s family and friends. When the teenager could not pay, the person on the other end pushed DeMay to kill himself, authorities said.

DeMay had never been talking with a girl, according to the FBI, which said that on the other end were two brothers from Nigeria using a hacked Instagram account. They researched him online, using details about his friends and family to target their threats. They also tried to contact more than 100 people the same way, authorities said.

The pair, Samuel Ogoshi and Samson Ogoshi of Lagos, Nigeria, have pleaded not guilty. Samuel Ogoshi’s lawyer declined to comment. Samson Ogoshi’s lawyer did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The FBI has seen a tenfold increase in “sextortion” cases since 2021. A least 3,000 children and teenagers have been targeted, and more than a dozen have killed themselves. Many schemes are believed to be originating with scammers based in African countries such as Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. Most victims are between age 14 and 17, but kids as young as 10 have been targeted.

DeMay’s mother, Jennifer Buta, said he was an easygoing high school athlete with a girlfriend and a big circle of friends. He was preparing to go a trip to Florida with his father the night before his death, she said. HIs family has since spoken out about his death, urging other parents to talk with their kids about “sextortion” schemes.

“It’s important parents know that this can happen. Their child is not an exception. If they are on social media, it can happen so quickly,” she said. “Parents need to let their kids know that they can come to them with anything, and their parents are there to help them and guide them through these situations.”

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A teen’s death in a small Michigan town led the FBI and police to an online sexual extortion scheme