- The Washington Times - Monday, January 25, 2021

ICE revealed Monday that it helped Australian authorities nab a 25-year-old man they say posed as a teenage YouTube star, luring American girls into befriending him then blackmailing the children into performing sex acts on video.

The man, identified by Australian media as Muhammed Zain Ul Abideen Rasheed, faces 247 charges stemming from 245 victims.

Australian Federal Police described one 13-year-old who said she thought she was talking to a 15-year-old. The person enticed her into talking about her sexual fantasies, then edited the log to make their chat appear more salacious, then he threatened to send the screenshots to her friends and family if she didn’t perform for him.

Police said she felt forced to strip out of her clothes and to “engage in sexual acts” while videoing online.

She eventually told her mother, and investigators tracked back to the man, police said.

Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s criminal arm, said it was tipped to the scam by the sheriff’s department in Leon County, Florida, then worked with the Australian Federal Police to identify the man. Youtube provided account information and investigators used that to identify victims.

They found 112 victims in October, and identified more than 130 others in subsequent months.

Australian authorities said when they carried out a search warrant in October they found more than 2,000 images on the man’s devices.

Mr. Rasheed was arrested in October but released on bail, with conditions that he avoid the internet and unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16.

“Child exploitation is a heinous crime that is happening far too often on social media sites used by our children,” said Adam Parks, HSI’s attaché for Australia.

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