A southern Illinois man who admitted to using blackmail to obtain nude pictures of around 100 girls and women will now spend more than three decades behind bars.
The culprit, 22-year-old Joshua P Breckel of Mascoutah, was arrested on July 8, 2018, after a 15-year-old girl from New Jersey complained to her mother that she had been threatened by someone on messaging application Whisper, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Breckel had reportedly promised the teen $2,500 for nude photos, a request to which she complied and sent him a topless photo of herself. The 21-year-old had then offered her $5,000 if she recruited friends to also provide a photo or a video, and when she refused, he threatened to publish her topless photo on Facebook and elsewhere online.
The victim's family contacted the police at this point, and from the complaint, authorities had been able to track the perpetrator's screen name and Snapchat tag to Breckel's home in Mascoutah.
Following his arrest, Breckel admitted to using online messaging applications and blackmail to obtain sexually explicit images and videos from both adult women and underage girls throughout the US, as well as from those in other countries, from early 2016 until his arrest in July 2018.
Prosecutors said the 21-year-old used Snapchat to obtain photos from most of the girls because the app deletes photos and videos shortly after they are sent. However, he used a recording device to save the images before they disappeared, they alleged.
Prosecutors also said girls who refused to send him photos received escalating threats from Breckel until they stopped communicating with him. When girls did send him photos, he would make them include their faces or hold up three fingers so he could verify they were not fakes, they said.
Breckel also confessed to threatening a 10-year-old girl from Ohio if she didn't comply with his requests and send him nude photos of herself.
He told FBI agents that, in total, he had obtained adult and child pornography from about 100 people by first feigning romantic interest in them and offering them money, and then threatening to spread it to friends and families unless they sent him more photos and videos.
On July 11, Breckel pleaded guilty in federal court in the Southern District of Illinois to charges accusing him of blackmailing women and girls in several states, receiving child pornography, and interstate transmission of a threat with the intent of extortion.
He was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison and will remain on supervised release for life after completing his prison term.