INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WISH) - Federal Prosecutors announced charges Thursday against a 23-year old Indianapolis man accused of sexual assault and extortion. His alleged victims were teen girls and authorities said it all started with Facebook and a cell phone.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police arrested Austin Williams in January for raping a 15-year old girl. While executing a search warrant as part of the investigation, IMPD investigators searched Williams' residence and located a cell phone. Police said a search of the phone revealed hundreds of sexually explicit images depicting teen girls between 14 and 17 years old.
During a press conference, U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, along with local and state officials, said their investigation showed Williams would use a fake Facebook account posing as a teen-age girl to trade self-made, sexually-explicit images. Often, authorities said Williams would obtain the phone number of his victims, urging them to text explicit images and videos of themselves.
Once the images were sent, investigators allege Williams would post the images on Facebook or threaten to do so if the girls didn't send more pictures.
"What we're dealing with here are people who know he has their pictures, they're being blackmailed and they know the ultimate threat is that he'll post the pictures online, and embarrass them with all their friends," said Asst. U.S. Attorney Steven DeBrota. "This guy, we allege, not only made that threat, he carried it out."
Hogsett said in one incident, a victim was so distraught, she attempted suicide.
"Our children carry phones with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they have them on all the time," said IMPD Dep. Chief Bill Lorah. "So it's important as families in our community to realize these predators are out there and they're preying on our children."
Authorities said Williams has been in jail since his January arrest on rape charges. Investigators said that alleged victim was one of the ten Williams had been extorting.
If convicted, he faces decades behind bars.
The charges are part of a crackdown on child exploitation all over Indiana, what authorities call a growing epidemic here and nationwide.
"An important part of social networking is that you really shouldn't be engaged in lengthy conversations with anybody that you don't really know," said Hogsett.
Court records did not list an attorney for Williams.
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