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Attorney General says Many "Sextortion" Victims Fear Asking for Help

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says online blackmail may be a bigger problem in Wisconsin than most people realize.

He said, "What is reported is probably just the tip of the iceberg, that there's much more underneath the surface that we never hear about."

Schimel says that's because many victims believe if they go to the police, the potentially embarrassing pictures of videos victims are trying to hide will then become public anyway.

Schimel says in most cases, the online blackmail comes from people getting hold of explicit pictures or videos of the victim. The person exploiting the victim then threatens to release the pictures or video on social media unless the victim gives into demands.

Schimel says in some cases, people demand money from victims, but in many others, it’s some kind of sexual act.

He said, "This isn't one of those fictional things we're making up to scare people, it has happened.

Sextortion is the term used to describe this act, and the term gained notoriety nationwide during a 2009 case Schimel prosecuted.

As Waukesha County District Attorney, Schimel prosecuted one of the most notorious sextortion cases in the country. In 2010, Anthony Stancl was sentenced to 18 years for posing as a female on Facebook, tricking more than 30 male classmates into sending nude pictures, then blackmailing some of them into sex.

Schimel says this case was only exposed when Stancl's computer was seized after he made a bomb threat.

Schimel says Stancl’s victims felt they couldn’t turn to police for fear of public ridicule, and says there are people who feel like they’re in a similar situation right now. Wisconsin’s Attorney General says he’s working with law enforcement, prosecutors, and the media to ensure victims are protected once they ask for help.

Schimel said, "My heart goes out to someone trapped in that situation. I hope they know that law enforcement is well trained in sensitivity and to protect their identity."

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