ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The suspect at the center of a massive online sextortion scheme is behind bars, but agents at FBI Minneapolis say their work is far from over.
Over the last two years, the FBI has invested time and resources investigating, 31-year-old Yue Vang from St. Paul.
This month, Vang pleaded guilty to victimizing more than 500 young girls online, and FBI agents believe there could be hundreds more victims who they’ve yet to identify.
"We have victims in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 10 countries, so this one individual has caused this much havoc on our youth. One person," said Brenda Born, supervisory special agent for the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.
"Have you ever seen anything like this?" FOX 9’s Rose Schmidt asked Born.
"This is my largest," Born replied.
Born and her team identified about 75 accounts Yang used to target young girls. They include social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, other apps and gaming platforms.
The FBI said Vang’s scheme was to extort young girls and convince them to send photos and videos. Court documents show over the course of five years, Vang posed as their peer to gain their trust.
"He would extort them and threatened to send that image or video to their friends’ list, to their parents, to their swim team, to their soccer team. But in order for him not to do that, he would direct them on sending additional images or videos. Some of them would be sex acts. Some of them would just be specific images of particular body parts," Born explained.
FBI agents believe there could be as many as 1,000 victims total, so they launched a website with potential usernames Vang used in hopes that more young girls come forward.
"(We want to) let them know we got him. We got him. He's in custody. He's pled guilty. Now the ownership of this entire event with you is not in his court. It's you. So you now have a voice," Born said.
The FBI is hoping these children could provide victim impact statements at Vang's sentencing. FBI agents also fear that these unidentified victims could be self-harming or experiencing psychological trauma, and they want victim services to help the victims.
"It's not their fault. They didn't do anything wrong. They're a victim. Please tell somebody," Born said.
In similar cases, the FBI also said predators will extort young boys or girls into sending money, instead of more images.
As school lets out for the summer, FBI agents know more children will be sending time online, so now is time to have conversations about internet safety. Born said these cases are "100 percent preventable," but parents have to talk to their children about not taking and sharing sexually explicit images.
Born offered the following internet safety tips:
- Parents shouldn’t be afraid to look at their children’s phones and the apps they're using.
- Predators will use stolen images to pose as someone else.
- When chatting online with someone, it’s a red flag if they ask you to switch to a different online platform.
- Be careful about any personal information shared online. Many people know not to share their date of birth, social security number or address, but the FBI also warns about sharing what events someone is attending or what they are wearing.