Pinellas man arrested for 'sextortion' on Facebook - WFLA News Channel 8

Pinellas man arrested for 'sextortion' on Facebook

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Bridgers, 34, is being held without bond at the Pinellas County Jail. Bridgers, 34, is being held without bond at the Pinellas County Jail.
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) - Federal agents report seeing an emerging trend of online predators getting young victims to create child pornography on their own, then passing around the images.

On Thursday, agents arrested Melvin Barber Bridgers, 34, of Tarpon Springs.

"It's sick,"said Mary Williams, a neighbor of Bridgers, when she found out about the arrest.

Bridgers is accused of messaging girls on Facebook, claiming to be a teenager himself. He would get the victims to send naked pictures of themselves then threaten to post them online or send them to their parents if they didn't send more, according to a criminal complaint.

Agents are calling the tactic "Sextortion", and say they are seeing more of it as predators target young victims comfortable with the web and technology.

"Every tablet cell phone now comes with a camera so you can take still pictures, you can make videos and you can edit and make movies on all these things as well," said Homeland Security Investigations special agent Bill Willinger.

Psychiatrist Dr. Walter Afield said it's important for parents to talk to their children about what they can encounter with the computer they've become so comfortable using.

"These are the old psychopaths that are just techno-savvy," Afield said.

Bridgers allegedly used variations of screen name Brianna Benson. Agents believe there are more victims in the Bridgers case and are asking anyone with information about it to contact them. The ICE-HSI hotline is 1-866-347-2423.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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