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U.S. Attorney Mark Totten targets skyrocketing sextortion: ‘There is no safe place, we are everywhere’

CADILLAC — Sextortion is skyrocketing across the nation. In fact, last year on just one cyber tip line more than 80,000 reports were received of predators demanding sexually explicit photos of minors. Reports of financial sextortion more than doubled this year.

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten is keeping an eye on this growing crisis, and has focused his attention on aggressively pursuing cases in the state of Michigan. At times, his work takes him outside the boundaries of the United States.

“I think what’s especially striking right now is that every young person across America who has a cell phone is carrying an instrument in their pockets that can potentially connect them to criminal networks around the world,” Totten said.


Totten said that some of the cyber crimes are coming from criminals inside the country, but some are coming from overseas, like in the case of 17-year-old Jordan Demay, who died by suicide after two Nigerian men allegedly posed as a girl on Instagram, then demanded money to keep intimate photos of hi from being sent to his family and friends. Totten said the entire interaction happened very quickly,

“Jordan Demay did not wake up thinking he was going to be the victim of sextortion. And from beginning to end, it was about 2 hours,” Totten said.

According to FBI data, more than 20 children and teenagers have killed themselves in the last few years over the online schemes; four of whom are from Michigan

The suspects in Demay’s case, Samuel and Samson Ogashi have pleaded not guilty, but Totten plans to hold them accountable, and anyone else who was involved in the scheme,


“There’s multiple defendants. They’re all Nigerians. We’ve extradited two of the three and we’re waiting on the third. You know, what we’ve alleged at this point is that this group of Nigerians was targeting young people, young boys, teenagers across the United States pretending to be young, attractive women, soliciting a compromising image,” he said.

Totten says, as soon as they have the image in hand, they immediately turn around and attempt to extort that person for money, but in the case of Demay, he simply didn’t have the money,

“He could not give the money that they wanted, they told him to kill himself, allegedly, and Jordan did exactly that.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office still has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, but Totten says he’s ready,


“We’re prepared to do so. And I’m hopeful that this case establishes a really important precedent against the face of a growing crime,” he said.

According to Totten, there is an evolution to criminal activity. Criminals are keeping up with advancing technology to commit their crimes. But he says his team is working day and night to protect the people and send a strong message to those who are even thinking about committing a crime,

“There is accountability, that, you know, you can’t go on an online forum and ever have confidence that there is not a law enforcement official who’s also on there watching what you’re doing and working to hold you accountable. And I hope every case, every conviction we win in the area of child exploitation sends a message to folks that are doing this, that are doing this online on the dark web,” Totten said.

Totten also wants to alert people to the real dangers he says are lurking on the internet, including on your child’s phone. He says you can help protect your kids by being watchful, mindful and careful. But either way, he and his team will be there watching and prosecuting people who commit crimes,


“There is no safe place. We are everywhere and we will hold everyone we find accountable,” Totten said.

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