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Streetsboro police investigating another sextortion case targeting a student

Streetsboro Police are reporting another sextortion case targeting a student, marking at least the second this month.

STREETSBORO, Ohio — The Streetsboro Police Department is reporting another sextortion case targeting a student of Streetsboro City Schools.

The case marks at least the second this month after the police department previously reported a case at an unnamed Streetsboro school targeting a male student on March 7. It also marks at least the fourth case targeting a Streetsboro student; in November of 2022, 17-year-old Streetsboro High School senior James Woods died by suicide after he fell victim to sextortion. 

In a message posted on its Facebook page, the Streetsboro Police Department said that the victim in the latest case immediately reported the matter to their mother and the police.

"Most importantly, this victim did the correct thing by immediately telling their mother and then making a report with the Streetsboro Police Department. It is important to make the report quickly to save any digital evidence," the department wrote. "This ongoing attack on our children has become too frequent, and as parents and adults it is critical that we continue to educate our children regarding sextortion and other dangers social media presents."

The police department noted that sextortion crimes can target people of any age and gender. This past December, the FBI issued a warning regarding a dramatic rise in sextortion schemes -- in which victims are targeted online and extorted for money after being tricked into sending sexually explicit pictures --  targeting teen boys.

According to the FBI, in 2022 there were over 7,000 sextortion cases reported in the U.S., with at least 3,000 victims and more than a dozen suicides. Some victims were as young as 10-years-old.

Despite the fourth sextortion case reported in the city since November, Streetsboro Police Chief Patricia Wain said there is a positive.

"On one hand I'm disappointed that its happened again, but on the other hand our kids are reporting it and that for us is a win," Wain said. "We’re becoming synonymous with sextortion, and I don’t want people to think we’re being targeted. I think we’re lucky enough to have kids that are willing to come forward."

Wain said during their investigations, Streetsboro police have traced IP addresses overseas to the Ivory Coast and Nigeria. One of her officers even spoke to a perpetrator.

"We had one that one of our officers spoke with and they didn’t care. They just kept saying, 'send us money or we’re going to distribute the photo,' literally telling an officer this," Wain said.

She explained that the scammers show no remorse, despite how helpless the victim may feel.

"They don't care if kids are threatening to hurt themselves. They don't care if the kids are panicking in a fragile state. It's just a job to them and they're going to push until they can get what they want," Wain said.

Since her son James' tragic death, Tamia Woods and her husband Tim have been devoted to raising awareness, educating kids and parents in his honor.

"You can't take everything away from your child. My son was 17 ½, what happens when he turns 18 and he goes to college? You cant take the phones all the time, you have to teach them how to use the phone and act appropriately," Woods said.

Woods continues to urge parents to talk to their kids about sextortion, how to avoid getting preyed on and what to do if they are targeted. She advises to let children know that they won't be in trouble if they do fall victim and should report it to police immediately.

"My son's last Google search was how to get a page shut down. He was fighting, but he didn't know what to do next. I don't want that for any other child," Woods said.

The Streetsboro Police Department says that it will be hosting a Mental Health and Safety Forum for all parents in the district at Streetsboro High School on May 10th. The parents of James Woods, as well as a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children, are expected to speak at the event, which is tentatively scheduled to take place from 6-8:30 p.m.


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