LOS ANGELES – A 9-year-old California girl was convinced to send naked photos and videos of herself to a man who posed as pop star Justin Bieber and then tried to extort her into supplying more images of herself, authorities said Monday.
Two years after his initial contact with the victim, the man was arrested in his hometown of Revere, Massachusetts last month, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Bryan Asrary, 24, confessed to extorting the young victim and “implicated himself in similar crimes against other young girls throughout the country,” a Sheriff’s Department’s news release said.
The situation began in 2014, according to KTLA, when the unnamed 9-year-old victim received a direct message from another user while looking at Bieber’s Instagram account.
The writer of the message said he knew the Canadian singer and could arrange a “text meeting” with the victim. The girl excitedly accepted and was told to set up an account using the mobile instant messaging app Kik, the Sheriff’s Department said.
On Kik, Asrary allegedly posed as Bieber and demanded naked photos of the girl, threatening harm if she didn’t cooperate. The victim complied but deleted the messages with the Bieber imposter.
Then, on Nov. 3, 2016, the Sheriff’s Department was informed by the girl’s mother that her daughter had recently been contacted again by the Bieber imposter, who had threatened to make public the earlier naked photos and video if the girl didn’t supply new images. After the girl told her mother what had happened two years earlier, the mother reported the situation to authorities.
Investigators with the sheriff’s Human Trafficking Bureau obtained search warrants for the social media sites and identified Asrary as the “sextortion” suspect.
“The evidence revealed that the sextortion had been committed from across the nation,” the sheriff’s release said.
Asrary was arrested Dec. 18 after L.A. County detectives traveled to his home and, with the help of Massachusetts State Police, served a search warrant at his home in Revere.
He was held in Massachusetts on suspicion of possession of child pornography, which was allegedly found on his cellphone and computer.
In California, Asrary is expected to face charges including extortion, manufacturing child pornography, and communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex act.
Asrary had no connection with Bieber, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Investigators expect to identify additional victims, the Sheriff’s Department said.