Federal prosecutors say an Eagan, Minnesota, man posed as a woman online in order to trick teenage boys into sending him nude photos of themselves.
That man, 32-year-old Anton Martynenko, was charged this week with a number of child pornography crimes, including producing, possessing and advertising the illicit images.
According to a news release, in 2011, Martynenko began using female aliases like “Marie Anna” and “Courtney Jansgen” to craft the persona of a young, lonely woman who'd just moved to Minnesota and needed friends – all for the purpose of reaching out to high school boys on social media.
The conversations would soon take on a sexual dimension, prosecutors say, with Martynenko sending nude photos of a woman he claimed to be and convincing the victims to transmit nude photos of themselves in exchange.
One victim, however, grew suspicious and stopped talking to Martynenko – at which point the defendant started making threats, saying he would distribute the boy's pictures if he did not send more, according to the charges. A year later, "the victim learned that his pictures were being distributed via social media."
In October, authorities executed a search warrant at Martynenko's home and found thousands of images of naked teenagers and young men hidden in ceiling tiles and a shoebox.
The case is being prosecuted by the Minnesota U.S. Attorney's office.
This comes amid a statewide crackdown on sex crimes – human trafficking in particular – in Minnesota.
Just last week, officials in Washington County formed a coalition of law enforcement and social services to help combat child sex trafficking in the Twin Cities, which the FBI has identified as one of 13 metropolian areas with a high incidence of child prostitution.
And trafficking may be fueling the production of child pornography as well. According to the Freedom Youth Project Foundation, children who are forced into prostitution are also made to appear in pornographic films, often under threat of violence.
You can learn more about preventing such exploitation by clicking here.