ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The FBI is trying to find hundreds of people who have may have been victim to what is being considered possibly the country's largest "sextortion" case.
Lucas Chansler, 31, is in prison for using social media to pretend to be a teenage boy, and extort teenage girls to send sexually explicit photos.
Chansler, of St. Johns County, pleaded guilty last year, and was sentenced to 105 years in federal prison.
The FBI said agents were able to find 109 victims using info found on Chansler's computer. They said Chansler had a file for each victim. They're asking for help finding those 250 unidentified victims, who investigators say could be living in fear.
The FBI is releasing the list of 135 screen names, they say Chansler used online. Investigators hope the campaign will help them find more of his victims.
Investigators said Chansler, a UF pharmacology student, went on a four-year "reign of terror" where he pretended to be a 15-year-old boy online. He met young girls, convinced them to send him inappropriate photos and then extorted them. He did all this from his St. Johns County home, agents said.
Federal agents said once he got those pictures, he threatened to post them for everyone to see, unless they sent more inappropriate pictures. Some of the girls were as young as 13.
Investigators arrested Chansler in 2010 and found 80,000 explicit pictures and videos on his computer.
"Basically he created a living hell for them," FBI special agent Larry Meyer said. "They did not know who he was. They lived in fear for many years, and for the 109 that have been identified, they know he's not going to bother them anymore. But there are still several hundred out there who don't have this closure yet."
Of the 109 victims agents have been able to identify, nine were in Florida and one was in the Jacksonville region in Volusia County.
At least five victims have tried to commit suicides and two families have relocated because of the sextortion. One of the victims, Ashley Reynolds, was featured in an article in Glamour magazine. She chose to come forward as a spokeswoman to raise awareness of the crime.
In the article, she says Chansler contacted her saying he had risque pictures of her, when he really didn't.
Agents said in another case, Chansler used a screen capture program to unknowingly record pictures of two victims who were video chatting with him during a sleepover.
In another, Chansler used information one victim posted on MySpace against her, agents said.
"She had enough information about herself posted on her MySpace page that Chansler made her believe that he knew where she lived, where she went to school, her activities, all that and the fact that she lives with her mother and brother," Meyer said. "And he just came right out and threatened her that he was going to harm her and her family if she didn't produce for him."
FBI agents said Chansler took advantage of about 350 teenage girls from across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, and that he got the photos for self-gratification, not for sale. Agents said they believe he liked having power over young women.
FBI agents said the illicit, underage photos are still being traded among pedophiles on the Internet.
The FBI hopes this campaign will encourage victims to come forward and encourage any teens currently going through something like this to speak up. Agents also say it's about making sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.
"You are a victim. You've been taken advantage of, and it's so important to tell someone so law enforcement can get involved and hopefully we can prevent someone else from being victimized as well," Meyer said.
Anyone with information that may help identify Chandler's victims or who believes they might have been victimized by him, can learn more and complete a confidential questionnaire at FBI.gov/sextortion. They can also send a confidential email to email@example.com, contact the FBI Jacksonville Field Office at 904-248-7000 or call toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).