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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