TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A Clay County, Indiana man faces charges of exploiting children in what authorities said may be the biggest case of child "sextortion" in U.S. history.
U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett announced Monday that authorities had arrested Richard L. Finkbiner, 39, of Brazil, Ind., on charges that he gathered explicit images of minors in order to blackmail those minors into sending him more explicit images and videos.
Hogsett said that no evidence has yet surfaced to suggest any local victims in the case, but he said that the internet allows for predators to target minors anywhere.
"In sextortion cases, you're not limited just to one geographic area," Hogsett said. "With the World Wide Web and the use of the internet … the world, frankly, is at Mr. Finkbiner's disposal."
Finkbiner listed himself online as owner of Clay County Internet, a Web-based business, and authorities said they are also including his work with the business in their investigation. A News 10 reporter knocked on the door of that building Monday, but got no response.
Though authorities believe there may be dozens or hundreds of victims, they say they've only identified two: a 14-year-old Michigan boy and a 14-year-old Maryland boy.
In each of those two cases, authorities said Finkbiner asked the victim to perform sexually-explicit acts on a Web camera and recorded those acts.
Once he had those images and videos, authorities say Finkbiner threatened to publicize the images online unless the minors sent him more such images.
According to an exchange with one alleged victim detailed in the criminal complaint against Finkbiner, the alleged victim asked Finkbiner to delete images of him.
"All I ask you for is to delete it please (I'm only) 14, please just do this to somebody else not me please," the alleged victim wrote. "U (sic) know that I under age and that is against the law and u (sic) could be arrested for this."
"Yes it is illegal, (I'm) ok with that … if you don't play I promise I'll f--- your life over … I won't get caught (I'm) a hacker I covered my tracks," Finkbiner reportedly responded.
During an interview with investigators, Finkbiner told police that he estimated he had victimized at least 100 individuals in a similar way.
Analysis of Finkbiner's computer and other media found dozens of video files showing hundreds of individuals in various states of undress, many of whom appeared to be between 14 and 16 years of age.
Authorities said they are releasing photos of Finkbiner in hopes that more victims will recognize him and come forward.
"Look very carefully at Mr. Finkbiner and … perhaps even ask your children if they recognize Mr. Finkbiner, said U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett at a Monday press conference.
Finkbiner is due in Federal court later this week.
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