A 24-year-old Massachusetts man is accused of posing as pop star Justin Bieber online to extort a child for nude photos.
Bryan Asrary allegedly convinced the 9-year-old California girl to “send naked photos and videos of herself,” reported Fox 8 Cleveland.
Asrary was arrested in Massachusetts, where he lives, the television station reported. He now faces charges that include child pornography and extortion.
“Investigators established that the suspect had no actual connection to singer/songwriter Justin Bieber, but simply fabricated the relationship to influence his young victims,” said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which said in a news release that Asrary may have targeted other young fans.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Girl Was Contacted While Viewing an Instagram Page of Bieber
NBC Los Angeles reported that the girl, who is now 11, told police that, when she was 9, “she was viewing the Instagram page of superstar Justin Bieber when she received a direct message from another Instagram user.”
That user then told the girl “that he knew Bieber and offered to arrange a text meeting with the victim,” according to the television station.
In a press release, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said, “On Thursday, November 3, 2016, detectives from the LASD Human Trafficking Bureau – SAFE Team began investigating a report of an 11 year old female being extorted for sexually explicit images over the internet. The victim disclosed to detectives that two years prior, when she was just 9 years old, she was viewing the Instagram page of superstar Justin Bieber, when she received a direct message from another Instagram user. That user (the suspect) stated that he knew Bieber and offered to arrange a text meeting with the victim.”
2. Asrary Allegedly Pretended That He Was Bieber
According to TMZ, Asrary then escalated to impersonating Bieber, demanding that “the girl send nude photos of herself and threatened to hurt her if she refused. The girl sent nude selfies and video.”
According to the Sheriff’s Department, “The victim then began communicating on KIK with someone she believed was actually Justin Bieber. A short time later, the suspect, who represented himself to be Bieber, began demanding nude photos of the victim and threatened harm if she didn’t cooperate. The victim cooperated and sent nude selfies and video as the suspect had demanded. After sending the pictures, the victim deleted the texts between her and the suspect and kept the incident a secret.”
3. Asrary Is Accused of Threatening to Publish the Photos
The extortion angle comes in because Asrary is accused of contacting the girl again and “threatening to publish and broadcast the photos she had sent him unless she sent more,” according to TMZ.
The Sheriff’s Department says the girl told her mother: “Two years later, in 2016, the suspect twice contacted the victim and threatened to publish and broadcast the previously obtained photos if the victim didn’t supply additional nude photos and video. The victim reported the incident to her mother, who contacted the authorities.”
4. The Suspect Allegedly Told the Girl to Use the Social Site KIK
The Sheriff’s Department wrote in its press release, “Excited at the proposition to text with Justin Bieber, the young victim accepted the offer and was directed to set up an account on the social media site, KIK.”
Law enforcement tracked down Asrary through search warrants of social media sites.
“Based on the information provided, Sheriff’s Detectives served several search warrants for information from the relevant social media sites and were able to identify the suspect as 24-year-old Bryan Asrary of Revere, Massachusetts,” the Sheriff’s Department said. “The evidence revealed that the sextortion had been committed from across the nation.”
On Sunday, December 18, 2016, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives traveled to Revere, Massachusetts, and “with the assistance of the State Police, located and arrested Bryan Asrary and served a search warrant at his residence,” the Sheriff’s Department said.
5. Asrary Allegedly Confessed & May Have Had Other Victims
“During an interview with Bryan Asrary, he not only confessed to extorting the victim for sexual images and videos, but also implicated himself in similar crimes against other young girls throughout the country,” the Sheriff’s Department reported in the news release.
“Asrary was arrested by the Massachusetts State Police for possession of child pornography, which was discovered on his cellphone and computer at the time of the warrant. Additional victims will be identified as part of the ongoing investigation. His bail was set at $20,000.”
In addition to local charges in Massachusetts, “Asrary will face multiple charges in California to include, extortion, manufacturing child pornography, and communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex act. When convicted, the suspect faces a sentence of several years in prison,” the department said.