WASHINGTON D.C. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the public’s assistance to identify additional victims of a convicted online predator who was convicted of extorting pictures from underage girls for three years.
Lucas Michael Chansler, 31, formerly of St. Johns, Florida, entered a guilty plea to nine counts of producing child pornography on Aug. 13, 2014. He was sentenced to 105 years in federal prison for engaging in an extortion scheme to produce child pornography.
According to court testimony, Chansler, who was studying to become a pharmacist, used multiple personas and dozens of fake screen names—such as “HELLOthere” and “goodlookingguy313”—to trick 350 girls from 26 U.S. states, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The FBI said he pretended to be different 15-year-old boys, all handsome and all involved in skateboarding, in order to gain the trust of young girls. Agents say Chansler trolled popular online hangouts to strike up relationships with teenage girls. In one instance on Stickam, a now-defunct live-streaming video website, evidence seized from his computer showed four girls all exposing themselves.
“The girls are apparently having a sleepover, and Chansler contacted one of them through a random online chat,” Special Agent Larry Meyer, a veteran agent in the FBI’s Jacksonville Division who investigates crimes against children, said.
“These girls thought they were having a video chat session with a 15-year-old boy that they would never see or hear from again, so they are all exposing themselves, not realizing that he is doing a screen capture and then he’s coming back later—very often in a different persona—saying, ‘Hey I’ve got these pictures of you, and if you don’t want these sent to all your Myspace friends or posted on the Internet, you are going to do all of these naked poses for me.’”
Court documents show that Chansler sent threats to hundreds of teen girls over the Internet from 2007 and continuing through January 8, 2010. He sent these threats with the intent to extort photographs and webcam videos showing the victims exposing themselves and engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
The FBI said Chansler often enticed his victims to expose themselves by showing a streaming video of a minor male exposing himself or engaging in sexually explicit behavior. If a victim did expose herself, he recorded it, and then demanded additional and more graphic images or webcam videos. He would tell his victim that if she did not do what he wanted, he would distribute the images and videos online, or send them to her family and friends.
Using information received from the parents of one victim and working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), agents were able to identify Chansler and locate his home. A federal search warrant was served at the residence on January 8, 2010.
When investigators served the search warrant at Chansler’s Jacksonville house and examined his computer, they found thousands of images and videos of child pornography. They also found folders labeled “Done” and “Prospects” that contained detailed information about the nearly 350 teens he had extorted online.
Many of the chat logs contained the threats Chansler had made to the victims. In several of the videos, the victims are seen crying and pleading with Chansler. In total, he had approximately 80,000 images and videos in his possession.
When FBI agents interviewed Chansler after his arrest, they asked why he selected that age group. “One of the comments he made,” Meyer said, “was that older girls wouldn’t fall for his ploy.”
Meyer and the Jacksonville Crimes Against Children Task Force analyzed the images of the girls to identify and locate them. One victim was located through a picture of her and her friends standing in front of a plate-glass window at their school. Reflected in the glass was the name of the school, which led to her identification. Another victim was found through a radio station banner seen in a video hanging on her bedroom wall. The station’s call letters led to a city and, eventually, to the victim. More than 250 investigators, analysts, victim specialists, child forensic interviewers, and community child advocacy centers were involved in locating and interviewing the known victims.
The FBI is actively working to identify Chansler’s remaining victims. A list of 135 known screen names, including Myspace, Stickam, and AIM, he used while sexually extorting victims can be found by clicking here.
“It’s important that we find these girls so that they don’t have to be looking over their shoulder, wondering if this guy is still out there and is he looking for them and is he going to be coming back,” Meyer explained, adding that “some of these girls, now young women, need assistance. Many probably have never told anyone what they went through.”
One of Chansler's victims, now 20, is doing what she can to get the word out about sextortion so that all of Chansler’s victims can be identified and other girls don’t make the mistakes that she made. “This ended for me,” she said, but for many of Chansler’s victims, “this never ended for them.”
Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell explains, “Sextortion is a growing threat both domestically and internationally. The devastating impact of these crimes on the victims, their families, and friends cannot be ignored. The FBI is committed to using our resources and leveraging law enforcement partnerships around the world to identify and arrest these criminals.”
“This case serves as an example that children anywhere can be targeted for sextortion and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals accountable,” said Campbell.
“I’m proud of the young girl and her parents for taking a stand against sexual exploitation by submitting the information to NCMEC’s CyberTipline,” said Linda Krieg, NCMEC’s acting CEO. “That one CyberTipline report, through the FBI’s investigation, turned out to be the tip of the iceberg involving a sophisticated child predator who allegedly victimized hundreds of children.”
If you have information that may help identify victims of Lucas Michael Chansler or believe you have been victimized by him, please learn more and complete the FBI's confidential questionnaire at FBI.gov/sextortion. You can also send a confidential e-mail to FBI.VICTIMASSISTANCE@ic.fbi.gov, contact your local FBI field office, or call toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).
Meyer said when he began working crimes against children cases eight years ago, he visited freshman and sophomore high school classes to talk about Internet safety. “Now,” he said, “we are going to fourth and fifth grade because kids are getting on the Internet at younger ages.”
He added, “We know that youngsters don’t always make sound decisions. Today, with a smartphone or digital camera, an individual can take an inappropriate picture of themselves and 10 seconds later have it sent to someone. Once that picture is gone,” he said, “you lose all control over it, and what took 10 seconds can cause a lifetime of regret.”
Meyer and other investigators experienced in online child sexual exploitation cases offer these simple tips for parents and young people who might think that sextortion could never happen to them:
For Parents :
- Supervise children’s computer or mobile device usage. Devices like smartphones are more difficult to manage due to their mobility and technical capabilities. As teenagers’ brains are not yet fully developed, they often struggle with anticipating consequences or impulse control. It’s important to discuss with your children appropriate uses for devices when they are given access to them. This includes communicating with others online and sending photos. Parents may want to maintain their child’s online account access information with the child’s understanding that the parent can log in at any time.
- Communicate with your children. Have age-appropriate discussions with your child about the dangers associated with communicating with unknown people online, sending photos, or engaging in other risky behavior online. In an effort to protect children from online predators, it’s important to educate them about sextortion and the motivations of those who extort children. Let your children know they can come to you without fear of reprisal, and that you have a genuine interest in their safety and online activities. Those exploited through these crimes are victims, no matter what they did or how they responded to the threat.
- Layer security. Employ basic technology security measures. Use strong passwords and update software regularly. Never open attachments to e-mails unless you are certain of the sender. Use a firewall, anti-malware software, and consider use of encryption for your hard drive. Keep in mind that some malware attacks are targeted; meaning criminals may customize their tools so that more simplistic anti-malware programs do not detect them and victims are more apt to take the bait. Do not assume technology alone will protect you; you must also do your part to protect yourself.
For Young People:
- Turn off your computer when you are not using it.
- Cover webcams with a removable sticker or tape when you are not using them.
- Don’t open attachments when you’re not confident of the sender.
- Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they say they are.
- If someone you know is being victimized through sextortion, report it to your parents and encourage the victim to talk to their parents and report it to the FBI.
- If you are receiving sextortion threats, don’t be afraid to talk to your parents or to call the FBI.