Ryan Vallee, the “sextortionist” of Netflix series “Web of Make Believe” was released from federal prison in 2022.
Vallee, now 28, was sentenced to 96 months in prison for coercing teenagers to send him sexually explicit materials, often using threats of death and violence to manipulate them. Vallee was able to hack the social media accounts of many of his victims. He was released January 20, 2022, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
His mom cried and hugged three of the victims who chose to speak out about Vallee’s actions in court, according to the Laconia Daily Sun, which covered his sentencing. She told the newspaper she knew her son’s victims.
Vallee was the subject of episode four of “Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet.” He used the names “Seth Williams” and “James McRow,” as aliases, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Here’s what you need to know:
Vallee’s Defense Attorneys Hoped His Autism Diagnosis Would Help Him Avoid Prison Time
Vallee’s defense attorney, Jonathan Saxe, claimed his client was emotionally stunted because he was on the autism spectrum, and further claimed his client did not understand the gravity of his actions.
“This was something he was doing on the computer. He didn’t grasp its effect,” Saxe said, according to the Laconia Daily Sun.
Saxe characterized Vallee’s behavior as conveying a “stunning lack of empathy.” But the judge determined Vallee’s actions went further, the newspaper reported, and that he knew he was harming the victims and causing them deep humiliation.
Vallee pleaded guilty to 13 counts of making interstate threats, nine counts of computer fraud and abuse, eight counts of aggravated identity theft and cyberstalking in August 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Vallee admitted that he repeatedly sent threatening electronic communications to his victims, usually by using spoofing or anonymizing text message services, in which he threatened his victims that unless they gave him sexually explicit photographs of themselves, he would continue with the above-described conduct,” the U.S. DOJ said. “According to the admissions in the plea agreement, when most of the victims refused to comply with Vallee’s demands and begged him to leave them alone, Vallee responded with threats to inflict additional harm.”
A Victim Testified at His Sentencing She Was ‘Trapped’ By Vallee
Three of the victims appeared in court to testify about the ways Vallee’s crimes impacted their lives, according to the Laconia Daily Sun.
“The thing that affected me most was being trapped,” one victim said.
She told the court she changed her phone number multiple times, and that she relocated in order to feel safe.
“What I went through, people can’t totally understand. The emotional scars will never go away. It’s never ending,” she said, according to the newspaper.
“I was scared in my own house,” said another victim.
She said Vallee hacked into her email and Amazon accounts and accessed her credit cards. She told the court she believes her sense of safety is permanently gone.
“I don’t know how I’ll ever feel comfortable even if he’s in jail,” she said. “I feel like I can’t trust anyone.”