A 25-year-old substitute teacher is accused of "sextortion" involving teenage victims and child pornography.
Mitchell James Ottinger, of Carver, was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of production and attempted production of child pornography and two counts of making extortionate threats, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota said Wednesday. He has a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. on May 7 in U.S. District Court.
Charges say he posed as a girl and directed minors to send him nude photos and then extorted them unless the victims met his additional demands for more images.
Ottinger worked as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional for "School District 1," the complaint says, noting an image investigators obtained from his email showed a badge for an elementary school.
It's not clear where exactly he worked. U.S. Attorney spokesperson Tasha Zerna told the Star Tribune his place of employment hasn't been disclosed and may not be because he works with minors.
According to the charging documents, Ottinger pretended to be a young female using the aliases "Taylor Malek" and "Rachel Meyer" with a romantic interest in the victims. He then lured at least two minors and one adult into sending sexually explicit images and videos of themselves to him.
If one of his victims blocked or ignored him, Ottinger would contact the victim through the alias or other accounts and threaten to publish and/or share the images unless additional demands for nude photos were met, charges state.
Law enforcement learned of this when one of Ottinger's 15-year-old victims contacted the FBI's National Threat Operations Center in July 2020, charges state.
Investigators believe Ottinger has been catfishing and sextorting victims since at least 2012 and there may be more victims. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI Minneapolis Division at 763-569-8000.
If convicted, Ottinger would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.