FBI seeking other victims of St. Paul man’s online sextortion scheme

·4 min read

The reach of a St. Paul man was widespread when he sexually extorted hundreds of girls.

They have been found in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 10 countries, and “we do believe there are more victims,” said Supervisory Special Agent Brenda Born of the FBI’s Minneapolis field office on Wednesday.

Yue Vang, 31, pleaded guilty in federal court on June 2 and remains in custody. He was accused of exploiting more than 500 girls on multiple social media and chat platforms.

Vang created about 75 online accounts that he used to portray himself as a minor and investigators found he was communicating with more than 1,000 accounts, said Born, who oversees the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.

With more than 500 victims already identified, the FBI is trying to determine if the people tied to the remaining accounts were victims, acquaintances or people Vang had a fleeting conversation with.

Officials announced May 25 that they were seeking other victims of Vang and about 30 potential victims have come forward since, according to Born.

FIRST REPORT FROM OHIO

Vang’s exploitation began as early as 2015 and continued through about Sept. 30, 2020. He used images of real girls, posing as them, to encourage other minors to produce pornography and send it to him, according to the FBI.

Authorities were alerted to Vang when a victim contacted her local police department in Ohio and that department, through their investigative process, identified the suspect as possibly living in Minnesota, Born said. Police shared the information with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which sent to a tip to the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The FBI investigation began in 2020.

The investigation into Vang was large scale. To put it into context, a Carver County man who’d been a substitute teacher was found to have victimized 42 people, including at least 23 minors, and was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison in April.

Vang used Snapchat, Instagram, Kik, Yubo, Skype, Facebook, and Hoop. His social media account names included “Yvanime,” “Mickey-Rawr,” “AnimeDork69,” “Animedorktw,” “Bobo195,” and “Fushu2.”

Vang was charged May 24 by felony information, a process by which a defendant agrees to waive a grand jury indictment and instead plead guilty. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed not to charge him with additional counts he pled to and also with transportation, receipt and distribution of child pornography.

“We were aware of this for awhile, we’ve been working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on this for a couple of years,” said Vang’s attorney, John Arechigo.

Vang pleaded guilty to two counts of production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography, and one count of interstate communications with intent to extort.

Prosecutors are seeking 72 years in prison. Arechigo said Wednesday they are in the process of a pre-sentence investigation and he hasn’t finalized his sentencing argument.

EDUCATING ABOUT SEXTORTION

With kids out of school for summer and potentially spending more time on electronic devices, Born said it’s a good time to talk to young people about not taking and sharing sexually explicit images and videos.

In the Vang case, when girls sent him sexually explicit images, he threatened he would tell their family or church group or athletic association if they didn’t send him more images, Born said.

In other cases, Born said she’s seeing more instances involving financial extortion — when someone convinces a person to send sexually explicit images, and then demands money — it could be $300 or $500 — and threatens to distribute the images widely if they don’t pay.

“The best way to disrupt this type of criminal activity is through awareness, education,” Born said.

Internet safety means more than not sharing your name, date of birth and address, but being mindful to not post photos that include a name of a youth sports association or a school, according to Born.

FOR HELP

The FBI is encouraging anyone who believes they may have been a victim of Yue Vang’s offenses or has information about the matter to contact them by visiting fbi.gov/resources/victim-services/seeking-victim-information/seeking-victims-in-yue-vang-investigation.

People can report sextortion in other cases through tips.fbi.gov or 800-CALL-FBI.

Related Articles