INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — (DMN) – Authorities fear that an Indiana man arrested on a single count of sexual exploitation of children might figure in a nationwide case of Internet sex crime with perhaps hundreds of young victims. If true, it would rank as one of the broadest cases of “sextortion” on record, federal officials say. The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office today are publicly releasing a police booking mug shot of Richard Leon Finkbiner, hoping his photo can generate leads that will allow them to identify children pictured in thousands of sexually explicit videos that authorities say they found on Finkbiner’s computer.
Finkbiner, 39, ws arrested at his Brazil home, which also houses the office of Clay County Internet, authorities say. Finkbiner owns the Internet services company, according to the small-business listing website manta.com. Federal officials were led to Finkbiner through complaints from two 14-year-old boys, who went to police in their home states of Michigan and Maryland saying they were victims of what authorities call “sextortion,” according to a federal criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute. Sextortion is the blackmailing of people by threatening to publicly disclose sexually explicit photos of them. Finkbiner was arrested Friday.
After being shown a photo of one of the boys by police, Finkbiner told authorities “he had induced or coerced the production of videos and images of so many people engaged in sexually explicit conduct that he could not readily recognize every individual,” according to the complaint. Finkbiner confessed to the Internet sexual exploitation of “at least 100 individuals,” the nine-page FBI complaint says. He was being held Sunday in the Vigo County Jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in federal court in Terre Haute. “This office will vociferously oppose” any attempt Finkbiner might make to seek his release on bail at the hearing, said Brant Cook, an assistant U.S. attorney.
The U.S. attorney in Indianapolis, Joe Hogsett, said federal investigators are trying to figure out how broad the case is and whether others are involved as perpetrators. “We are fearful it will be vast, but we don’t know that,” he said Sunday. “This is a case, frankly, in its infancy.” He said federal officials took the unusual step of releasing the mug shot of the defendant to try to get victims or their families to call the FBI if they recognize him. Almost all of the youths pictured in seized videos are boys, and most appear to be 14 to 16 years old, Cook said.
Cook said Finkbiner used an alias to contact the two 14-year-olds and exchanged messages with them using online chat services set up for private, anonymous conversation. Such chat services “lend themselves to extortion schemes,” said Cook, who led the prosecution of a Maryland man recently sentenced to 33 years in prison for sexual exploitation of children, including a girl from Indiana. The case involving Finkbiner could expand to include many more victims. “Although it is impossible to know the number of victims at this stage, the presence of hundreds of victims would put this investigation and prosecution among the larger — if not largest — sextortion prosecutions ever undertaken in the United States,” said a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
The two victims mentioned in the complaint against Finkbiner are from Prince George’s County, Md., and Oakland County, Mich. The complaint alleges that, from November to February, Finkbiner sent both boys video clips he had captured online that depicted them in sexually explicit poses. He then allegedly told the boys that if they didn’t follow his instructions, he would release the video clips on the Internet or to their friends. Finkbiner is charged with coercing one of the boys into recording additional sexually explicit videos. Cook said those involved in sextortion typically want sexual videos or photos, not money. “The thing of value being extorted is more (sexually explicit) images. There are people in the world who value those highly.”
Authorities say that Finkbiner bragged to one of his victims that he wouldn’t be caught. “I won’t get caught im (sic) a hacker I covered my tracks,” Richard Finkbiner, 39, allegedly wrote according to a 14-year-old boy he was extorting. The exchange came after the boy had begged Finkbiner to stop threatening to post racy pictures of the boy on the Internet. “All I ask is for you delete it please im (sic) onlyh (sic) 14 please just do this to somebody else not me please,” according to a criminal complaint against Finkbiner.
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said at a news conference Finkbiner found sexual explicit photos of the boys online, then contacted them and threatened to post them on gay websites or email them to their friends and families if they did not send him more images of themselves. Police said they found 1,000 images on Finkbiner’s computers and he has told them he might have blackmailed more than 100 boys, said Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent in Charge for the Indianapolis Field Office Robert Holley. Despite his claims of being catch-proof, Finkbiner, on at least some occasions, allowed the victims to see his face on webcams. “I guess he got sloppy,” Holley said. Federal authorizes took the rare step of releasing his photo so other victims might come forward. The two 14-year-old victims live in Maryland and Michigan.
FBI asks for help in ‘sextortion’ case
The FBI wants the public’s help in identifying hundreds of minors shown in sexual poses in videos that authorities say they found on the computer of Richard Leon Finkbiner, 39, of Brazil, Ind. Authorities have released Finkbiner’s mug shot, hoping people recognize him from videos he might have sent out over the Internet. Finkbiner was arrested Friday and faces one count of sexual exploitation of children. To contact the FBI in the case, call its cybersquad division in Indianapolis at (877) 542-8979.