Hundreds of teens and children targeted online by predators
There is a growing number of reports of "sextortion" across the country, according to the FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Sextortion happens when a person uses coercion to get sexual images, videos, money, or even sex from a victim. Many times, the targets are pre-teens and teens, and they're not always girls -- boys can be victims as well.
Many of the victims are kids with good grades who are social, love sports and have a lot of friends. The problem is these children often make just one mistake, and they pay for it.
Ashley Reynolds is one such child who fell victim to sextortion. When she was 14 years old, she was into sports, was doing well in school and seemed to have a great life. That is, until she became a sextortion victim.
"I don't want to believe what I was doing," she said.
Reynolds is 20 years old now and is sharing her story with the FBI and the rest of the nation so other other children won't be targeted.
"I felt like a slave. I had to make sure I replied to every message," she said.
Reynolds had fallen for a common ploy: She was contacted online by someone who claimed to be a teenage boy. He had embarrassing sexual photos of her. He threatened to send those photos to her friends if she didn't send him a topless photo of herself. Without considering the consequences, Reynolds sent him the photo.
"Often times, what we see with the kids here within the region is they will start to communicate with somebody who they believe is a 14-year-old, friend of a friend, and then from there they will develop a relationship," said Michael Glennon, FBI. "At some point they will probably disclose some sort of compromising photo or image. That image then is taken and held against them."
Reynolds faced a similar threat.
"I gave him the pictures and I got to keep my reputation. He was not going to stop. I never wanted to send and give him what he wanted, but I wanted my freedom," she said.
She was tormented for months until her parents found out what was happening.
An FBI investigation led to an arrest of 26-year-old Lucas Chansler. He pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child pornography production and was sent to prison for 105 counts total. Chansler had used the Internet to victimize nearly 350 teenage girls.
The majority of his victims have not been identified.
But there are other predators out there, too.
Experts said there have been at least 78 recent cases with more than 3,000 victims, because often each predator may have up to several hundred victims.
FULL STORY: Feds: Sextortion reports on rise - WKMG