A Pennsylvania teenager is facing the possibility of 15 years to life in prison after he was arrested for sexually exploiting a victim, who is now 17 years old, and attempting to entice her to produce child pornography.
Diego Ramos, 19, of Blakeslee, Pennsylvania, is charged by complaint with one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of attempted enticement of a minor in connection with his extortion of a teenage girl residing in Middlesex County, New Jersey.
After he successfully sexually exploited his victim, a teenage girl in Perth Amboy, Ramos extorted money from her.
He appeared on Nov. 30, 2022, before U.S. Magistrate Judge André M. Espinosa in Newark federal court and was detained.
According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger and documents filed in this case, Ramos used multiple Instagram accounts and other social media and messaging platforms to successfully coerce a minor to send sexually explicit images and videos to him from May 29, 2021 through Nov. 29, 2022.
The girl sent Ramos pictures of herself and he convinced her to also share sexually explicit images of her 15-year-old sister.
To avoid involving her sibling further, the victim shared video images of herself engaged in various explicit sex acts with an unidentified male.
He threatened the victim with public exposure if the victim did not send additional sexually explicit images and videos requested by Ramos, and caused the victim to pay Ramos $12,982 to stop him from publicly releasing the images.
Law enforcement authorities took control of the victim’s phone and, using her social media accounts, engaged in conversations with Ramos between November 18 and 29, according to a statement by FBI Special Agent Monica Cueto.
The count of sexual exploitation of a child carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison; the count of attempted enticement of a minor carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. Both counts are punishable by a maximum of life in prison.
The FBI and Europol issued warnings about situations like this, stating that online sexual exploitation comes in many forms and those misdeeds surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Individuals may coerce victims into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, often in compliance with offenders’ threats to post the images publicly or send the images to victims’ friends and family,” according to the FBI.
“Other offenders may make casual contact with children online, gain their trust, and introduce sexual conversation that increases in egregiousness over time” according to the FBI. “Ultimately this activity may result in maintaining an online relationship that includes sexual conversation and the exchange of illicit images, to eventually physically meeting the child in-person.”
“In order for the victimization to stop, children typically have to come forward to someone they trust—typically a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement,” according to the FBI. “The embarrassment of being enticed and/or coerced to engage in unwanted behavior is what often prevents children from coming forward. Offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify offenders may prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation.”
“Abuse can occur offline through direct contact with another individual,” according to the FBI. “During these uncertain conditions, where time with other adults and caregivers has increased immensely, parents/guardians should communicate with their children about appropriate contact with adults and watch for any changes in behavior, including an increase in nightmares, withdrawn behavior, angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, not wanting to be left alone with an individual, and sexual knowledge.”