A federal prosecutor is seeking a prison term of 21 months for a Southern California man who in 2013 hacked into young women's computers, secretly activated their webcams and threatened to publicly release embarrassing images if the girls didn't provide him additional nude images or participate in obscene Skype sessions.
The 2013 sextortion case against Jared James Abrahams of Temecula won international attention after a cyber crimes squad in the FBI arrested the then 19-year-old college student for abusing mostly teenage girls in Southern California, Maryland as well as in Russia, Ireland, Canada and Moldova.
"[Abrahams] chose to take pictures of his young women victims in their most intimate moments," said Assistant United States Attorney Vibhav Mittal. "Then, between March and May 2013, [he] went further when he extorted these young women for more images, videos and Skype sessions. Two of these victims complied with the defendant's demands and undressed for him on Skype while he recorded their video chat sessions. But when victims did not comply with his demands, [Abrahams] carried out his threat and posted the naked images on social media sites . . . His language was aggressive and unsympathetic to the emotional toll that his conduct was having on his victims."
One of his California victims was Cassidy Wolf, a Miss Teen USA winner, who called her experience a nightmare.
FBI agents, who tracked down Abrahams despite his efforts to hide his identity, reported the defendant ordered a 14-year-old girl to undress on webcam, saying, "You are going to be showing every part of you!"
While a 17-year-old victim who pleaded for mercy, the defendant–a computer science major–advised her, "I'll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart!!!"
One victim who refused to cooperate with Abrahams discovered that he'd posted nude photos of her on her public Instagram page.
Using malware and remote administration tools, he secretly controlled as many as 150 computers–mostly laptops–before his arrest.
At one point, he bragged to a victim: "Guess what, no one has even come close to figuring out who I am yet and that's because I know how the police find people like me and I also know how to keep them from using those tricks to find me!"
What sentencing position Alan Eisner, Abrahams' Los Angeles-based defense lawyer, has taken isn't known because he sealed his arguments from public view.
But Mittal noted that while the defendant suffers from "social anxiety and autism spectrum disorder," such conditions don't excuse the deliberate crimes or the trauma the victims experienced.
"As digital devices, email accounts and social media accounts no contain the most intimate details of the public's daily life, the impact of this type of hacking and extortion becomes more pronounced, troubling and far-reaching," according to the prosecutor. "In some cases, this type of criminal behavior can be life-changing for the victims–especially for vulnerable victims who may feel it is impossible to rebuild their tarnished reputations. Stated differently, individuals like the defendant have the ability to affect a person's life in frightening ways by using the broad reach of the Internet."
U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna is scheduled to decide the length of Abraham's prison punishment today inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Abrahams has been free from custody on bail.