25 January 2024- Since 2019, after the Pennsylvania State Police Chambersburg Barracks received a report of sexual extortion of a minor victim, the Criminal Investigation Unit conducted an extensive and exhaustive investigation. That investigation revealed several incidents of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children involving five juvenile victims across Hamilton Township, Greene Township, Guilford Township, and Saint Thomas Township, Franklin County.
Through the course of the investigation, more than 30 additional victims across the United States and internationally were discovered to have occurred since 2013, through online sextortion. The sextortionist was ultimately identified as Alvaro Andres Valarezo Sandoval of Miami, Florida, an Ecuadorian national with the assistance of the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
An operation was coordinated with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and on January 16th, 2024, an arrest warrant was obtained for Valarezo Sandoval through MDJ 39-3-03, Honorable Judge David L. Plum. Members from PSP Chambersburg subsequently traveled to Miami, Florida.
On January 18th, PSP with the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, their Special Operations Team, and the Miami-Dade Police Department successfully apprehended Valarezo Sandoval without incident at his residence. In addition, a search warrant was executed on his residence and numerous electronics devices were seized as evidence.
Valarezo Sandoval was transferred to the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department’s custody pending extradition to Pennsylvania where he faces four counts of felony unlawful contact with a minor, two felony counts of photography child sex act on a computer, three felony child pornography counts, two felony criminal solicitation counts, three felony counts of dissemination of an explicit sexual material of a minor, five felony counts of corruption of a minor, and four felony counts of criminal use of a communications facility.
PSP defines sextortion as the criminal act of receiving sexually explicit material from an individual. That individual can be an adult or a minor, and once the sexually explicit material is received, it is used as blackmail.
Sextortion schemes occur in online environments where people, especially minors, feel most comfortable using social media sites, gaming sites, or video chat applications which feel familiar and safe to minors. Those platforms can include Discord, Instagram, Snapchat, Roblox, and TikTok, however, this can occur over virtually any platform. On these platforms, predators often use fake accounts and target minors.
Through deception, sextortionists convince the minor to produce a sexually explicit video or photo, often after befriending and creating an online friendship or other relationship with the minor. Once predators acquire a photo or video, they often threaten to release the compromising sexually explicit material unless the victim sends additional sexually explicit material. Some of these predatory criminals demand money, gift cards to keep them from releasing the compromising material in their possession. Often, these predators demand payment rhough a variety of peer-to-peer payment applications and methods. In many cases, however, sextortionists release the sexually explicit material even if the additional sexually explicit material is set or payments are made. The shame, fear, and confusion that victims feel when they are caught in theis cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse and it can be a traumatic experience which may drive them toward self-harm or even death by suicide.
The Pennsylvania State Police would like to remind anyone who is sexually exploited that you are the victim of a crime, the predator is to blame, not you or your child. They implore the exploitation be immediately reported to your local law enforcement agency, or to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
If you or your child is sexually exploited, parents and young people should follow these steps:
- REPORT the predator’s account via the platoform’s safety feature
- BLOCK the predator and DO NOT DELETE the profile or messages as it can be helpful to law enforcement in identifying, locating, and ultimately stopping them.
- SAVE all conversations, chats, and messages with the predator.
- ASK FOR HELP. This can be a very complex problem and may require help from adults or law enforcement
- If you don’t feel that you have adults in your corner, you can reach out to NCMEC for support at email@example.com, or call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.