By Jen Kocher, Cowoby State Daily
A Bangladeshi national has been charged in Alaska federal court on 13 counts of operating a child exploitation enterprise involving hundreds of teens around the country and world, including at least six minor victims in Wyoming.
Zobaidul Amin, 24, was arrested Sept. 19 where he lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in what the Federal Bureau of Investigation calls one of its “most prolific and malicious sextortion schemes” to date, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.
The federal case was a joint effort led by the FBI Anchorage office in conjunction with multiple law enforcement agencies, including Wyoming, Alaska, West Virginia, Oregon and Florida, along with Malaysian authorities.
Amin has been indicted on 12 charges related to the possession and production of child pornography by the Malaysia Attorney Generals Chambers, where he will remain in prison. The charges are outlined in a 50-page redacted grand jury indictment. Other court documents related to the case have been sealed.
Indictment ‘A Huge Win’
Chris McDonald, head of Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit, said it’s rare a foreign national would be tried for crimes committed against children in the United States and credits the FBI and Malaysia for working together to bring charges against Amin.
“I have a hard time expressing how rare it is to get all those moving parts to come together,” McDonald told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “We put a good case together in Wyoming to help the Alaskan FBI, and they did great police work.”
McDonald said his team was aware of six minor victims in Wyoming, although he suspects that true number is higher. He also said it was really frustrating to know the identity of the alleged perpetrator and not be able to pursue charges internationally.
“This guy has just victimized kids in Wyoming on a long-term basis,” he said. “It’s a huge win to bring him to justice and get a sense of closure for the victims and their families and our team.”
Fake Profiles, Threats And Extortion
The indictment against Amin’s outlines his use of social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram to exploit hundreds minor victims in the United States and abroad by using threats to coerce the teens to produce sexually explicit photographs and videos of sadistic and illegal sexual images and acts, according to federal court documents.
Amin alleged victims are younger than 18 and as young as 11 by posing as teenage boys or girls – and sometimes a bisexual or gay youth – using fake photos of himself, according to court documents filed in the federal District Court in Alaska.
He reportedly asked the minors about their sexual orientations before requesting they send a nude photo. After getting the photo, Amin then would extort the teens, threatening to expose the photos to the victims’ friends and followers on social media unless they provided additional sexually explicit photos or videos.
After threatening to share photos, Amin would direct the teens to connect with him on Snapchat, where he demanded they produce a specific number of images and videos per day. The images included their genitalia or videos of them vaginally and anally penetrating themselves with various objects.
Sometimes Amin made good on threats to expose the sexually explicit content to friends and family on social media, according to the indictment. In other instances, he promised to stop extorting the minor if they helped him find new victims or sent him nudes of other teens.
In some cases, Amin would masturbate during video chats with minors while the victims engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to court documents.
When his social media accounts got shutdown or flagged, Amin would create new ones, often using his victims’ phone numbers or requiring them to provide their personal information to create new accounts.
At the time the indictment was filed, Amin had used more than 80 Snapchat accounts and more than 40 Instagram accounts, some of which remain active, according to the indictment.
Amin also is accused of sharing the images and videos he’d get from his victims in drop box folders with at least three co-conspirators who he required to sextort the minors with him to view the content.
Amin frequently taunted his victims, preying on their insecurities and encouraging self-harm, according to court documents.
When questioned by one teen why he was doing this to her, Amin responded that, “Depressed girls are the preetiest [sic] not even lying.”
Several minor victims also threatened to harm themselves in chats with Amin. In one such exchange with a teenage girl, Amin responded, “One of the girls I did this to she even send me a vid of her slitting her throat.”
Many of his victims confronted Amin about his age, with some calling him a “pedophile.”
One teen threatened Amin by stating that a family member was a police officer, to which Amin responded, “ur local pd won’t do shit.”
‘Prolific And Malicious Sextortion Scheme’
Amin’s crimes are among “the most prolific and malicious sextortion scheme” that has been investigated by the FBI, said FBI Anchorage Field Office Special Agent Antony Jung.
“This exploitation enterprise targeted hundreds of minors in the United States and abroad through popular social media platforms,” Jung said. “Children would then be coerced into producing sexually explicit material and terrorized with threats of exposure if they did not continue.
“The protection of our children extends beyond borders, and this case demonstrates the multi-jurisdictional approach among local, state, federal and international law enforcement partners to maximize our efforts in the pursuit of justice.”
Since Amin has been federally indicted in Alaska and charged in Malaysia, Wyoming won’t pursue additional charges, McDonald said.
According to the laws of Malaysia, the punishment for a person who makes, produces, directs the making or production of or participates or engages in any way with child pornography is imprisonment for no more than 30 years and a whipping of not less than six strokes.