This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
“All you’ve to do is cooperate with me and I won’t expose you.”
That’s what one Nigerian man posing as a woman on Instagram wrote in a March 2022 message to 17-year-old Jordan DeMay before the Michigan teen took his own life.
“My son was smart. He was a good student. He was a great athlete,” John DeMay, Jordan’s father, told Fox News Digital. “Someone came to his bedroom at 3 in the morning and murdered him through Instagram when we were all sleeping at night, and we had zero chance to stop it.”
The suspect in Jordan’s death, 22-year-old Samuel Ogoshi, is one of three suspects from Lagos arrested earlier this month for allegedly hacking Instagram accounts and sexually extorting, or “sextorting,” more than 100 young men online.
The FBI defines sextortion as a “serious crime” in which perpetrators threaten to expose a victim’s sensitive or private information in exchange for sexually explicit material or money.
In Jordan’s case, the teenager began chatting with someone he thought was a woman on Instagram under the username “dani.robertts.” The account was real but had been hacked and sold to Ogoshi, who used the profile to coerce young men into sending explicit photos of themselves. He allegedly used the photos as leverage for money, according to the FBI.
“I can send this nudes to everyone and also send your nudes Until it goes viral,” Ogoshi wrote in another message to DeMay, a senior football player at Marquette Senior High School, after the 17-year-old sent an explicit photo of himself.
“Just pay me rn [right now],” Ogoshi said over Instagram. “And I won’t expose you.”
“How much,” Jordan responded.
Ogoshi demanded $1,000. Jordan sent $300, and Ogoshi threatened to expose the teenager’s photo to his family and friends if he did not send more money.
Hours later, Jordan told Ogoshi that he was going to kill himself.
“Good,” Ogoshi wrote. “Do that fast. Or I’ll make you do it. I swear to God.”
Federal authorities charged Ogoshi with causing DeMay’s death.
The 17-year-old football player’s tragic fate is not uncommon in America and across the world. Teens across the U.S. are falling victim to sextortion on social media.
As his son got older, John DeMay stopped monitoring Jordan’s phone usage as much as he used to, as most parents do when their teenagers near adulthood.
“We didn’t, I didn’t monitor social media anymore. I didn’t let him have social media. I had to keep him from it for a long time,” DeMay explained. “I monitored his phone as much as any person ever could. I tracked them GPS. I monitored his text messages. I monitored his usage. I locked his phone down.”
A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics found that nearly 15% of U.S. youth were sending “sexts,” or sexual texts, while 27% of youth were receiving them.
The perpetrators pose as real people — often as attractive women or men — online and target young and vulnerable victims. They will reach out directly to victims and strike up an online conversation, gain the victims’ trust one way or another and convince them to send nude photos.
Once the photos are exchanged, the perpetrators threaten to share them or make them public if the victims do not send money, other personal information or more explicit images.
The scheme pushes some teens beyond their breaking point.
A 2022 film called “Sextortion” describes the crime as “the hidden pandemic.”
The film opens with the story of a 14-year-old girl from Bedford County, Virginia, who fell victim to a sextortion attempt on Facebook.
Daniel Harris, a married, 30-year-old Air Force pilot and father from Virginia Beach posing as a teenage boy online, pressured the girl into sending explicit photos and then threatened to share them if she did not send more. The girl told her parents, who contacted law enforcement.
Authorities were able to take control of the girl’s account and pose as the 14-year-old victim in communication with Harris until they had established a criminal violation directed toward the victim, at which point they were able to file a subpoena and eventually find and arrest Harris.
As Dr. Andrew Doan, a neurologist, explains in the film, “For the first time in history, we’re letting strangers interact with our kids in the back of our car, in their bedrooms, in their homes, through video games and social media.”
Doan went on to explain how groomers are able to gain victims’ trust.
“As a predator, you can actually create an online profile that actually matches the preferences of that child. So, as that child is interacting with that fake account … what they’re experiencing is this super arousing stimuli where the … predator is telling them what they want to hear. They’re telling them about their favorite music, about their favorite food, about their favorite sports and even pick a profile picture that looks like their favorite love interest,” he said.
Doan compared the feeling children experience when talking to strangers online to the high an adult feels after doing drugs. Teenagers’ brains, however, are not fully developed yet, and they often do not understand the difference between chatting with strangers and friends online.
Another expert featured in the film said sextortion “typically only stops when the victims’ parents get involved or the offender is identified by law enforcement.”
DeMay said he encourages parents and teenagers to learn about the risks of sextortion and have a plan in place if it happens to them or someone they know. Specifically, he advises victims to turn off their phones and contact law enforcement or the FBI immediately.
He also said he would tell Jordan “every single day” if he had “a chance” that threats from the sextortionist were not the end of his life.
“[Kids] have to just understand that this isn’t the end of whatever they think is their life, because it’s not,” DeMay explained.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline received about 32 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation in 2022. The “online enticement” category of the CyberTipline saw an 82% increase in complaints between 2021 and 2022.
The FBI encourages anyone who believes they are a victim of sextortion or knows someone who may be to contact their local FBI office or toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI.