Federal indictment: Clarksville teenager caught up in sextortion via social app
Clarksville, Tenn. (WSMV) - A 14-year-old Clarksville teenager was sextorted by the use of YUBO, a popular social media app designed to connect young people “with whoever from whatever,” according to a federal indictment.
YUBO’s tagline, “Get friends. Get real. Go live,” allows teenager as young as 13 the ability to meet total strangers online.
A link on YUBO’s website reads that the site is using pioneering technology to verify those ages 13 and 14 to, “further mitigate risks of child abuse and such acts by preventing users who might misrepresent their age for ill intent from joining the platform.”
However, prosecutors allege Aaron Eugene Bjarnason of Portland Oregon, identified himself as eighteen years old, and started an online conversation through YUBO with the Clarksville teenager.
That teenager then told investigators that the conversation transitioned from YUBO to Facetime, in which she got “completely naked” while video chatting.
“So the actual application itself is almost irrelevant, because wherever the children are in our youth, what they’re using is where the predators will go,” said FBI special agent Douglas Kornaski.
The indictment reads that Bjarnason recorded the Facetime video and threatened to distribute the video to her Instagram followers if she didn’t make more explicit videos for him.
Bjarnason was also accused of sextorting another teenager in Minnesota.
WSMV4 attempted to reach YUBO, which is headquartered in Paris, France by the company’s media email, but we received no response by our deadline.
A SCHEME FOR A MODERN AGE
The circumstances surrounding the Clarksville teenager are disturbingly similar to what happened to Amanda Todd more than a decade ago, but update for the modern media world.
The Canadian fifteen-year-old became the world-wide face of what can happen to teenagers who sextorted.
“It can always happen. It happened to us. It happened in a split second,” said Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother.
Todd was tricked into flashing a nude image of herself through a web camera to Aydin Cobin, a Dutch man who was later convicted of extortion of not only Todd but people around the world.
In a now famous video, Todd told the story of her extortion in a series of index cards.
Todd wrote that Cobin threated that he’d send the naked photo to friends and family if she didn’t provide more photos.
When she denied him, Carol Todd said Cobin released the image, and the online and in-person harassment began. “Bullying and cyber bullying her. Calling her names, telling her she should die,” Carol Todd said.
WSMV4 Investigates shared the indictment and other court records in the Clarksville teenager’s case with Carol Todd. “It just breaks my heart, it really does,” Carol Todd said.
Kornaski said sextortion cases among young people are on the rise. “Worst case scenario is that the child would commit suicide because they just don’t know where to turn,” Kornaski said.
For Carol Todd, the worst-case scenario came true; Amanda took her own life not long after posting the video.
In one of the final frames of the video, Todd wrote that she “cried every night, lost all my friends and respect.” “Your child died by suicide. And that’s a different kind of loss,” Carol Todd said.
If you are wondering how to talk to your teenager about sextortion, Carol Todd has established a website to honor her daughter’s story and help other families. https://www.amandatoddlegacy.org/find-help.html
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