'Sextortion' Photos of Miss Teen USA Lead to Arrest

By Betty Wang, JD on September 27, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The FBI made an arrest in a recent "sextortion" case involving photos of Miss Teen USA. The man arrested, Jared James Abrahams, 19, has allegedly also hacked into other victims' webcams and online accounts, the unsealed charges report, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cassidy Wolf, who was Miss California Teen USA before she won the Miss Teen USA pageant in August, allegedly received an anonymous email from a person who claimed he had taken nude pictures of her via the webcam on her computer. That person then tried to extort her -- ensuring her that, in exchange for the photos not being made public, she had to send more nude photos.

What kind of charges might Abrahams face?

Cyber Crimes Still Crimes

Abrahams is being accused of various cyber crimes for allegedly hacking into victims' webcams. Cyber crime refers to a broad category of any criminal offenses committed either online or through computer technology. While it may seem like a fairly new category of crime, cyber crimes generally involve the run-of-the-mill criminal offenses that could be committed without the "cyber," such as theft or sexual assault. Many states, including California, prohibit the unauthorized access of someone else's computer -- a kind of "cyber" burglary -- for the purposes of taking and copying of data.

In this case, if Abrahams hacked into Wolf's computer, it would be illegal under California law. The access to the now Miss Teen USA's computer was both unauthorized and perpetrated in an attempt to take data -- the beginning of the nude "sextortion" photos.

"Sextortion," a Real Crime for a Fake Word

Why is this called a "sextortion" case? Because, on top of the fact that Abrahams faces cyber crime charges for allegedly obtaining pictures of Wolf, using them to coerce the pageant model is considered extortion.

Extortion refers to the crime of obtaining something, usually money -- but in this case, nude photos -- by threat. The elements may vary by state law, but in general extortion requires a threat of either violence, property damage, harm to reputation, or unfavorable government action. In this case, Wolf's reputation would likely be affected if Abrahams released any nude pictures of her.

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