Sextortion case raises warning for parents
The Indiana man facing charges in what prosecutors call a widespread internet sextortion case went before a federal judge Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators say 39-year-old Richard Finkbiner of Brazil, Indiana coerced at least two 14-year-old boys he met in an online chat room to send him sexual pictures, then used the pictures to try to blackmail them into performing sex acts on a webcam.
Detectives believe there could be many more victims because of the thousands of images found in the man's home.
At the heart of the investigation is an online chat site known as Omegle.com. Anyone can use it to exchange texts and video, and police say that's where Finkbiner met many of the victims.
Mary Grimes-Szymczak took time from her busy waitress job to talk to us about why her children are not allowed to chat with online strangers.
"Could be giving them information about their names, what school they go to and they could stalk them and eventually come to your house," she said.
There are literally thousands of websites for children to make new friends. Some of them, like Omegle.com, will do the introductions. Omegle encourages users to "talk to strangers."
This is the same website federal investigators reportedly found that sextortion suspect Richard Finkbiner had used.
Investigators say he used this website to coerce hundreds of people, including minors, to send him sexual content.
The stranger introduced to us online immediately asked if we were male or female. After indicating we were a 15-year-old female, the stranger immediately started asking questions that were sexual in nature.
"Our advice to parents is to stay very involved with your child's life and make sure you know who they are talking to when they are on these online chat networks," said Tim Horty, US attorney spokesperson.
The Indiana State Police have a criminal intelligence unit which investigates online predators. Investigators say your child should only chat with people online that they know in real life.
"That helps make it more difficult for an online predator to get access and insinuate himself into your child's life," said Lt. Chuck Cohen, Indiana State Police Criminal Intelligence.
Since Mary monitors her children's every online move, she's doing exactly what cyber cops say every parent should do.
"You have to monitor your children. Something terrible could happen and you would never forgive yourself," she said.
Criminal Intelligence investigators advise teaching your children never to give personal information in any chat room. Many chat rooms also have ways for you to report suspicious activity.