Suspect charged in Nigeria over sextortion of B.C. boy who died: Surrey RCMP

Suspect charged in Nigeria over sextortion of B.C. boy who died: Surrey RCMP
Police in British Columbia say two suspects in Nigeria have been arrested over the sextortion of a B.C. boy who died last year. An RCMP patch is seen on a shoulder in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, April 28, 2023.

Police say that for just a few minutes last year, a Metro Vancouver boy communicated online with someone he thought was a teenage girl, sending her intimate photos.

But the people on the other end of the social media interaction were criminals in Nigeria, investigators said, as they announced sextortion-related charges had been laid against a man in the West African nation.

“The suspect then blackmailed the youth with threats to share the photos with his family and friends unless he complied with demands of purchasing gift cards and sending them to the suspect,” Surrey RCMP said on Tuesday, describing the international investigation that followed the boy’s “sudden” death last February.

They said the boy had been the victim of “financial sextortion.”

Sgt. Derek Bonner told a news conference that the interaction between the boy and the suspects lasted only minutes, “a short-term communication back-and-forth contained within one day.”

The Mounties didn’t name the boy, but Sgt. Tammy Lobb confirmed that he had been correctly identified in previous media reports, which said he was a 14-year-old from Surrey who died by suicide.

Bonner said investigators determined last May that the suspects in the boy’s case were operating in Nigeria. Officers from the Surrey detachment travelled to Lagos late last July, where they helped in the arrests of two men in August, he said.

One man was later released, while Adedayo Olukeye, 26, has been charged under Nigerian law with offences including possession and distribution of child pornography, attempted extortion by threats and money laundering, Bonner said.

The man remains in custody awaiting trial, Bonner said.

The arrests in Nigeria involved Surrey RCMP, the FBI, the Australian Federal Police and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission, he said.

Police provided a statement from the boy’s family, saying he was an “innocent child” who loved life and loved hockey, and he was taken advantage of.

“As we grieve the loss of our son, we want other parents to know this could happen to anyone,” the statement said.

“Talk to your kids about internet safety, and keep the door to communication open, so they can come to you for help.”

Sgt. Dave Knight said financial sextortion is a “public safety crisis that is heavily impacting youth globally,” including in B.C.

“Online child sexual extortion is a borderless crime, and these offenders have direct access to our children by targeting them through their phones, mobile devices and gaming consoles,” he told the news conference.

He said police “cannot fight these predators alone,” and they’re urging parents and guardians to learn the signs that a young person may be a victim of sextortion.

Surrey RCMP alone have received more than 500 reports of sexual extortion over the last two years, with 210 in 2022 and 302 in 2023, he told the news conference.

He said the victims last year ranged from 10 to 21 years old, and 21 per cent of victims were under 18. Most were male, Knight said.

“It is important to note that these are reported incidents, and that we do not know the total number of sextortions that go unreported,” he added.

“We urge youth and parents to come forward with this information.”

The Mounties’ announcement about the investigation comes after the B.C. government launched a series of measures designed to tackle online harms.

Premier David Eby said the moves last month were in direct response to incidents such as the death of 12-year-old Carson Cleland in Prince George, B.C., who police have said took his own life after falling prey to online sextortion last October.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2024.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian PressBrenna Owen, The Canadian Press

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