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California Man Arrested For Alleged ‘Sextortion’ Plot That Police Say Led to Teenage Boy’s Suicide

A mug shot of Jonathan Kassi, 25

Jonathan Kassi, 25, of Reseda, California (photo via San Jose Police Department)

A California man has been arrested for what investigators describe as “a West African financial sextortion scheme” that led to a 17-year-old boy’s suicide.

Jonathan Kassi, 25, is accused of sexually exploiting children online “utilizing the usernames ‘emillysmith’ and ‘kassijonathan’ on various social media applications,” according to a press release Monday from the San Jose Police Department.

Los Angeles police arrested Kassi in Van Nuys, just outside L.A., on Thursday, police announced Monday. He was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for extortion as well as attempted disorderly conduct, for allegedly posting a photograph or recording without consent.

Detectives believe Kassi may have other victims, and they’re asking any with information about him to contact Sgt. Sean Pierce #3415 of the San José Police Department’s ICAC Unit at (408) 537-1397 or e-mail [email protected].

San Jose police’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force started the investigation on Feb. 26. That’s the day 17-year-old Ryan Last‘s mother, Pauline Stuart, said he was was found dead.

Stuart spoke about her son in May with ABC affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco. She said he was spending a lot of time online during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he started talking to someone thought was a teenager girl.

He sent explicit photos of himself to the person, “and as soon as he did they demanded $5,000 from him,” Stuart said. “He couldn’t pay that so, then they negotiated down and he was able to pay $150 from his account but as that was the issue, because as soon as he paid they realized there was money there.”

The scammer continued threatening to post the photos, and Last committed suicide on Feb. 26, his mother said. He was a Boy Scout and straight-A student, she said.

“His note apologized for not being smarter,” Stuart said. “To him, he wasn’t smart because he fell for this scam. He believed in somebody and that devastates me that he felt that he wasn’t smart because somebody took advantage of him.”

Stuart said she wished her son goodnight at 10 p.m., and by 2 a.m., he had taken his life after continued contact with the scammer, who police now say is Kassi.

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.