Students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) are speaking out about a recent “sextortion” case. More than 40 victims in three states, including five students from UNCG, have already come forward alleging that they were tricked into having compromising photos taken of themselves and were later blackmailed with the same images.
Kevin Kerney, 32 years old, was arrested last Monday after being charged with five counts of felony extortion and misdemeanor cyberstalking according to UNCG police and jail records. UNCG police also say that more charges are pending, and informed BH Media that scams involving threats of a sexual nature are known as “sextortion” cases. Kerney’s is currently being held in the Guilford County jail on $25,000 bail.
According to the University Police, Kerney posed as a modeling agency recruiter. He offered women opportunities to model, and requested revealing photographs as part of the recruitment process. Kerney then allegedly threatened to expose the revealing images publicly unless the victims shared their private information with him, including social media accounts and passwords.
The elaborate scam would begin on Instagram with a simple direct message to potential victims. Kerney would contact the women about a modeling opportunity and refer himself as ‘Kayla’ with an attached email address.
“‘Kayla’ would then provide the victim with fictitious modeling shoot information and request their height, weight, measurements, sizes, and the like before asking them to submit a series of photographs,” said the High Point Police.
Once the victim would send the photos, Kerney would reveal that the modeling agency was a scam and that ‘Kayla’ was not his identity, he would threaten to send the photographs around and tell the women not to call the police.
“During those incidents, each victim was threatened repeatedly with the dissemination of nude photographs to family, friends, social media contacts and other acquaintances,” said the High Point Police.
UNCG officials issued a public thank you to the police, “who pursued this case tirelessly,” saying that “it is because of their courage that we have been able to successfully apprehend and charge a dangerous individual with a series of significant criminal acts.”
The University is encouraging other victims to come forward, and is also asking students to be more cautious about the security of their social media accounts.
“We believe there may be more victims who have not yet come forward. We encourage anyone with information about this or any other similar crimes to contact their local police department,” the University said in a public statement.
UNCG has stated that the university will continue to support the efforts of law enforcement agencies across multiple states to achieve a just outcome.
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