- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Massachusetts man convinced a 9-year-old girl to send him pornographic images and videos of herself by pretending to be pop star Justin Bieber, authorities said Monday.

Bryan Asrary, 24, was arrested last month in connection with a sextortion scheme that began two years earlier on the pop singer’s Instagram page, law enforcement officials said in an announcement this week.

According to authorities, the Revere, Mass. resident masqueraded as Mr. Bieber in order to scam sexually explicit images over the internet from an underage child in southern California.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the scheme in early Nov. 2016 after the mother of an 11-year-old girl contacted detectives upon learning that her daughter had sent lewd images of herself to a person who claimed to be the singer.

“The victim disclosed to detectives that two years prior, when she was just 9 years old, she was viewing the Instagram page of superstar Justin Bieber, when she received a direct message from another Instagram user. That user (the suspect) stated that he knew Bieber and offered to arrange a text meeting with the victim. Excited at the proposition to text with Justin Bieber, the young victim accepted the offer and was directed to set up an account on the social media site, KIK,” the Sheriff’s Office said in Monday’s statement.

The girl began using the service shortly after and before long started exchanging messages with someone claiming to be the singer, according to the statement. Soon afterwards the operator of the purported Bieber account began demanding nude photos of the child, and threatened harm if she didn’t cooperate, the statement said.

The girl heeded those initial requests, but kept their correspondence a secret until 2016 when she was approached by the person again and asked to send additional photos and videos, according to authorities. The girl instead alerted her mother who in turn notified the local sheriff’s office.

An investigation into the social media exchanged led authorities across the country to Mr. Asrary. He was arrested last month with the assistance of Massachusetts State Police, and charged with possession of child pornography after the execution of a search warrant allegedly uncovered illegal content on his cellphone and computer.

“During an interview with Bryan Asrary, he not only confessed to extorting the victim for sexual images and videos, but also implicated himself in similar crimes against other young girls throughout the country,” the Los Angeles Sherif’s Office said.

Mr. Asrary was initially held on $20,000 bail, according to the statement. His name did not appear online in a database of inmates maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Correction as of Tuesday this week.

In addition to facing charges in the Bay State, prosecutors in California are likely to file multiple counts against Mr. Asrary, including extortion, manufacturing child pornography and communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex act, the statement said.

Authorities could not find any connection between Mr. Asrary and the pop singer, and said he likely “fabricated the relationship to influence his young victims.”

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