St. Paul man who targeted 1,100 victims in sextortion scheme sentenced

The man who targeted hundreds of girls in a sextortion scheme has been sentenced to 43 years in federal prison.

Yue Vang, 31, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography and one count of interstate communications with intent to extort. 

He was sentenced to 516 months in prison on Wednesday, followed by supervised release for the rest of his life. This is more than the 180 months in prison his attorney requested, according to court documents. 

Authorities initially said Vang targeted hundreds of girls. During Wednesday's hearing, the judge said Vang targeted more than 1,100 victims in 42 countries. 

Extensive sextortion scheme

Prosecutors said Vang victimized more than 500 girls across the United States in a years-long "extensive online sextortion scheme." In June, the FBI said it believes there could be hundreds more victims 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," Brenda Born, supervisory special agent for the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, told FOX 9 in June.

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 schemed 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 hoped these children could provide victim impact statements at Vang's sentencing. FBI agents also fear 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 June.

In similar cases, the FBI also said predators would extort young boys or girls into sending money instead of more images.

Internet safety tips

The FBI encourages parents to have conversations about internet safety with their children, with Born noting these cases are "100% preventable," but parents have to talk to their children about not taking and sharing sexual 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.