PORTLAND, Tenn. (WKRN) — A 16-year-old Portland boy is the target of a multi-state sexploitation case that involved not only Portland Police but both the TBI and FBI.
Investigators say the teen used the internet to create fake identities and hard to trace IP addresses as he coerced dozens of teenage girls in multiple states into sending him nude photos and more.
Police tell News 2 the sexploitation case began 20 months ago in February 2019 when a Portland father reported that his daughter had been victimized by the teen.
According to Lieutenant Jason Arnold of the Portland Police Department, the 16-year-old Portland boy targeted girls he went to high school with in Portland and Bowling Green, Kentucky, and even Indiana.
Police say the teen was quiet and very tech-savvy as he created fake identities, profiles, IP addresses, and social media platforms.
Arnold says he hid his trail efficiently.
“Absolutely. He knew what he was doing and how to stay anonymous online,” said Arnold.
According to investigators, using his fake profiles, the 16-year-old coerced young girls to send him naked pictures and videos.
Police say some of the girls blocked him on social media accounts he was using, but he had multiple social media accounts.
“He’d frighten the girls saying things like, ‘you can’t get rid of me. I’ll never go away,'” said Arnold.
Police say he boasted to the girls that he was not afraid of law enforcement because they would never catch him.
“And it scared the girls enough that some of them actually cooperated with them,” said Arnold.
Arnold says once he had pictures of his victims, the boy ordered the girls to do more salacious acts on video, and if they refused there were consequences. Initially, he threatened to release the pictures publicly, but as his plot intensified, police say he threatened to beat and rape the girls.
“It’s awful. It shows his progression. How it’s becoming more violent,” said Arnold.
Portland Police teamed up with the TBI, the FBI, and law enforcement in Indiana and Kentucky to finally track the teen down.
So far police have identified seven victims in Tennessee, one victim in Kentucky, and one victim in Indiana. Detectives say there are dozens more they have yet to identify.
Detectives were also shocked when they discovered that the boy was also in possession of many images of child pornography that he was reportedly trading with other pedophiles.
Police tell News 2 that it’s unusual to find a teenager who is already trading for child porn with others online.
“Yes, he is already escalating at a young age. You don’t normally see it this young. It’s usually later in life. But it started young and he is just getting worse. Hopefully, we stopped it. And hopefully, we can get him some help and stop this progression,” said Arnold.
Portland Police are urging more of the victims not identified to come forward.
The teen went before a judge and was ordered to home arrest and wear an ankle monitor. He is charged with 39 counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, 5 counts of stalking, and 5 counts of extortion.
“He was a real quiet kid. obviously intelligent really smart to be doing what he was doing. He just focused his intelligence on something criminal,” said Arnold.