Reseda’s Jonathan Kassi has been arrested as part of an online sextortion scheme that led to the suicide of a 17-year-old boy

SAN JOSE, California– A new citizen Public safety alert by the FBI and partner agencies was released Monday, warning that thousands of children and youth are being targeted in cases of financial “sextortion.”

Officials said at least 3,000 minors, mostly boys, have been harassed so far this year. They said predators use social media to communicate with targeted minors, who are mostly boys between the ages of 14 and 17 and sometimes younger.

Victims are tricked into providing explicit photos, and the perpetrators then demand money and threaten to share the images with their family and friends.

At least a dozen victims of these crimes have killed themselves, according to the Justice Department.

On the same day of the report, San Jose police announced the arrest of a man from Reseda who they believe is connected to a case in Northern California that ended with a 17-year-old San Jose boy who committed suicide died.

The arrest of Jonathan Kassi, 25, underscores the anonymity of this cybercrime.

ABC7 News, our sister station in San Francisco, has decided to share the suspect’s picture as police search for more victims.

“Pauline, does this arrest bring any kind of closure to your family?” asked ABC7 news reporter Amanda del Castillo.

“No,” Pauline Stuart replied. “I’m very grateful it happened, but deep down I’d rather have my son.”

Her son, 17-year-old Ryan Last, believed the person he texted with earlier that year was a girl. Instead, it was a cybercriminal demanding more and more money. It’s money Ryan couldn’t pay.

Ryan left a suicide note describing how embarrassed he was for himself and for the family. Since his death, his story has made national headlines.

Stuart said other families have reached out to her message to make a difference.

“The only thing that helped was knowing Ryan’s story,” Stuart explained. “They went to their parents, they went and talked to them and said, ‘Help.'”

Santa Clara University psychology professor Dr. Thomas Plante, described the youthful mind and explained that impulse control is still evolving.

“When it comes to self-harm, they don’t necessarily have the brakes that some older, more mature people have to push those feelings aside and come up with more thoughtful and productive coping strategies,” Plante said. “So just act.”

The FBI said there were more than 7,000 reports of financial “sextortion” online in the past year.

Stuart said if she’s learned anything it’s the importance of creating a safety network.

“The most important thing is to build a support system for your kids and talk to them,” she said.

It’s a point Plante reiterates.

“These are emerging technologies that we older people don’t understand like the younger people do,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard for us to ask the right questions because we don’t really know what’s going on, so we have to do more teamwork.”

Stuart admitted her son was the “perfect target” because he was very trusting of people.

“We want kids to grow up trusting the world, but a lot of the world can’t be trusted,” Plante said. “So we kind of have to find a way to strike that balance of trying to give people the benefit of the doubt but being very suspicious of strangers and scammers and all that – they just seem to be getting smarter than they are.” trying to harm others.”

Stuart told ABC7 News: “One thing about this scam is that you can defeat it by educating kids and parents about it. Because honestly, we didn’t know this type of scam existed. And if we did, my son would probably still be alive.”

ACT: Suicide Prevention: Local Resources for Crisis Patients

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All rights reserved. Reseda’s Jonathan Kassi has been arrested as part of an online sextortion scheme that led to the suicide of a 17-year-old boy

Laura Coffey

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