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A 17-year-old boy died by suicide hours after being scammed. The FBI says it's part of a troubling increase in 'sextortion' cases
Article by: CNN
June 07, 2022
Views: 39,194

Ryan Last received a message on a school night in February from someone he believed to be a girl.

Within hours, the 17-year-old, straight-A student and Boy Scout had died by suicide.

"Somebody reached out to him pretending to be a girl, and they started a conversation," his mother, Pauline Stuart, told CNN, fighting back tears as she described what happened to her son days after she and Ryan had finished visiting several colleges he was considering attending after graduating high school.

The online conversation quickly grew intimate, and then turned criminal.

The scammer -- posing as a young girl -- sent Ryan a nude photo and then asked Ryan to share an explicit image of himself in return. Immediately after Ryan shared an intimate photo of his own, the cybercriminal demanded $5,000, threatening to make the photo public and send it to Ryan's family and friends.

The San Jose, California, teen told the cybercriminal he could not pay the full amount, and the demand was ultimately lowered to a fraction of the original figure -- $150. But after paying the scammers from his college savings, Stuart said, "They kept demanding more and more and putting lots of continued pressure on him."

At the time, Stuart knew none of what her son was experiencing. She learned the details after law enforcement investigators reconstructed the events leading up to his death.

She had said goodnight to Ryan at 10 p.m., and described him as her usually happy son. By 2 a.m., he had been scammed, and taken his life. Ryan left behind a suicide note describing how embarrassed he was for himself and the family.

"He really, truly thought in that time that there wasn't a way to get by if those pictures were actually posted online," Pauline said. "His note showed he was absolutely terrified. No child should have to be that scared."

Law enforcement calls the scam "sextortion," and investigators have seen an explosion in complaints from victims leading the FBI to ramp up a campaign to warn parents from coast to coast.



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