Federal sex-crime involved kids, one from River FallsArea News
-- An Indiana man agreed Jan. 30 to plead guilty to federal charges of running a sex-related Internet extortion scheme involving kids ages 12-17 from multiple states, according to information from the FBI and Department of Justice, as well as through media outlets.
By: Debbie Griffin - River Falls Journal, Pierce County Herald
RIVER FALLS - An Indiana man agreed Jan. 30 to plead guilty to federal charges of running a sex-related Internet extortion scheme involving kids ages 12-17 from multiple states, according to information from the FBI and Department of Justice, as well as through media outlets.
Federal authorities arrested Richard Leon Finkbiner, 40, Brazil, Indiana, April 6, accusing him of exploiting minors and coercing them into performing sexually explicit acts online.
In serving the search warrant at Finkbiner’s Clay County home, the FBI uncovered thousands of sexually explicit images and videos depicting hundreds of possible victims.
Additional allegations and formal charges were made against Finkbiner in July following a forensic analysis and investigation. Prosecutors had located more victims.
The suspect now faces 10 counts of sexual exploitation of children, two counts of extortion, and one count of possession of child pornography.
The scheme involved children from Anchorage, Alaska; Fort Collins, Colo.; Fairview Heights, Ill.; Avon, Ind.; Dubuque, Iowa; Grand Rapids, Mich.; St. Peters, Minn.; Hamlin, N.Y.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Sissonville, W. Va.; and River Falls.
U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett said in a news release in mid-2012, “These charges formalize allegations of a systematic scheme to victimize hundreds of children and teenagers all over the country,” he said. “Thanks to the tireless work of investigators, over the last three months we have been able to identify and contact many victims of these alleged acts. This process is ongoing, and we continue to do all we can to offer support after the nightmare they are alleged to have endured.”
Reports on the case say the FBI released Finkbiner’s arrest photo to help find other children he may have victimized.
Scheme deemed ‘sextortion’
Finkbiner is accused of exploiting at least 12 victims, including nine boys and three girls.
The FBI information says “the formal charges filed in federal court describe a complex and systematic criminal scheme.”
Finkbiner allegedly used the Internet to prey upon children and teens by extorting and saving visual depictions of hundreds of individuals engaged in sexually explicit or sexually suggestive conduct, including the 12 minor victims.
Reports say Finkbiner met most victims on Facebook then used video chat rooms to secretly record teens performing sex acts, then he’d threaten to upload those videos to porn sites unless the victims recorded more sex videos for Finkbiner’s personal use.
The suspect allegedly threatened to distribute sexually suggestive and partially nude images.
The three-month forensic investigation revealed that Finkbiner allegedly used Omegle.com, as well as other anonymous video-chat websites, to locate children on the Internet.
Charges contend that he’d then use “fake webcam” software to display pornographic videos of adults and of children to his victims, which Finkbiner claimed were live feeds from his webcam.
While displaying these videos to his chat partners, Finkbiner would allegedly induce victims to engage in sexually explicit or suggestive activity themselves, which he secretly recorded.
The information alleges that Finkbiner would then confront his chat partners with the videos of their activities, threatening to publish the videos or send them to the victims’ friends, family, and school teachers unless they became his “cam slaves.”
According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary A. Myers and A. Brant Cook, prosecutors of the government’s case, investigators continue to process and examine thousands of images and videos seized in April.
Finkbiner has been in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest, where he’ll remain under court order until his trial.
Finkbiner faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for each count of sexual exploitation of children, a maximum of two years in prison for each count of extortion, and a maximum of 10 years in prison for possession of child pornography. Finkbiner also faces a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the charged offenses.
Prosecutors agreed to recommend a 30-to-50-year prison sentence in exchange for Finkbiner’s guilty pleas. The sentence may mean he could get out of prison before he dies.
Formal charges follow an extensive collaborative investigation by the FBI and at least half a dozen other law-enforcement agencies. The accused will come before a federal magistrate in Terry Haute, Ind.
Federal authorities offer resources for helping keep kids safe. Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. Visit online at www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children serves as the national tipline for crimes against children: www.cybertipline.com or 1-800-8435678.
Other resources include Net Cetera, a booklet-type guide to talking with kids about navigating the Internet safely and responsibly.