In the digital age, crimes have evolved, often incorporating elements of technology to exploit others.

One such crime is “sextortion,” or blackmail pornography, where an individual extorts money from victims by threatening to reveal their explicit photos or videos. Because these crimes involve the internet and typically cross state lines, they are frequently prosecuted under federal law and carry significant penalties.

If you or someone you know has been accused of running a blackmail pornography scam, it’s important to speak with a skilled federal defense attorney as soon as possible.

What is ‘Sextortion’ (Blackmail pornography)?

Sextortion, also referred to as blackmail pornography, involves the act of obtaining sexually explicit content from a person and then threatening to disseminate the material unless a certain demand, often financial, is met.

For instance, an individual might deceive someone into sharing explicit photos or videos online. Once obtained, the scammer threatens to share these images or videos with the victim’s friends, family, or online platforms unless the victim pays a sum of money.

Sextortion can be prosecuted under several federal laws. A few key laws include:

The Federal Wire Fraud Act (18 U.S.C. § 1343)

This law makes it a federal crime to use wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce to carry out a scheme to defraud someone of money or property. As sextortion scams often involve electronic communications and aim to defraud victims of money, perpetrators can be prosecuted under this law.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030)

This law criminalizes obtaining information from a protected computer (which includes personal computers) without authorization or exceeding authorized access. If the explicit content was obtained through hacking or unauthorized access, the perpetrator could be charged under this act.

Extortion and Threats Laws (18 U.S.C. §§ 875-877)

These laws make it a federal crime to transmit any communication in interstate or foreign commerce threatening to injure the property or reputation of another person with the intent to extort money or anything of value. The act of threatening to release explicit content unless a demand is met could be charged under these statutes.

Penalties for running a blackmail pornography scam

Running a sextortion scam can lead to severe penalties under federal law. The specific penalties can vary depending on the exact statutes the conduct violated, but some potential penalties could include:

  • Wire Fraud – Conviction can result in up to 20 years in prison, and if the scheme affects a financial institution or is connected to a declared disaster, the maximum imprisonment can increase to 30 years, along with hefty fines.
  • Computer Fraud – The penalties vary depending on the offense’s circumstances, but a conviction could result in imprisonment up to 20 years and significant fines.
  • Extortion and Threat – The penalties again depend on the exact nature of the offense but can include up to 20 years in prison and substantial fines.

It’s worth noting that federal sentences often carry additional consequences, including potential restitution to the victim and supervised release following imprisonment.

Defenses against sextortion accusations

Facing accusations of sextortion can be daunting, but it’s crucial to remember that all defendants are entitled to a defense. Some potential defenses against sextortion charges could include:

  • Lack of Evidence – The prosecution must prove every element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is insufficient to meet this standard, the charges may not hold.
  • Mistaken Identity – Given the digital nature of sextortion, it’s possible the wrong person may be accused. If you can show that you were not the person involved in the offense, the charges against you could be dismissed.
  • Violation of Constitutional Rights – If the evidence was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, such as through an illegal search and seizure, your attorney might be able to have that evidence suppressed.

Facing sextortion charges can seriously impact your future. It’s thus critical to seek competent legal representation to protect your rights and navigate the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Robert M. Helfend at 800-834-6434. With years of experience in federal defense, he can provide the legal expertise necessary to challenge sextortion charges effectively.

Understanding the nature of sextortion crimes, the associated penalties, and the defenses available is the first step in securing your rights. However, this guide does not replace the importance of personalized legal counsel. Therefore, it’s strongly advised to seek legal representation promptly if you are facing charges.