A serial “sextortionist” from Miami Beach who targeted underage girls over the internet by convincing them to undress and then threatened them with publishing their nude photos has been sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Justin Shawn Smith, 35, was dealt the lengthy prison term in Miami federal court Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke after he had pleaded guilty to two charges of producing child pornography in February.
Smith’s M.O. was uncovered when an 11-year-old girl in London reported that a 13-year-old boy named “Cody Mathews” convinced her to perform sexually provocative acts on the video-chat internet program Skype. The girl said she met “Cody” on the website kidschat.net, and Homeland Security investigators later identified Smith as the user of the “Cody Mathews” moniker.
In court papers filed with his plea agreement, Smith admitted that he pretended to be 13 years old while chatting on the website and using various user names. Investigators examined Smith’s computer and discovered that he had an extensive history with the Skype program, including hundreds of chats with various underage girls.
Homeland Security investigators identified 31 potential victims in the United States and interviewed 19 of them between the ages of 7 and 14.
“Generally, Smith would convince the minor girls to undress and to engage in sexually explicit conduct with a sibling or pet,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami. “Smith would often threaten the minor girls, stating that he would publish their nude photos or tell their parents if they did not do what he wanted.”
Authorities said this type of online predatory crime is known as “sextortion,” and that it aims to exploit children through terror and manipulation.
The investigation was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide effort launched by the Justice Department a decade ago to combat the epidemic of child exploitation and abuse.