SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — A 17-year-old San Jose boy was one of multiple teenaged boys who fell victim to sextortion committed by Jonathan Kassi, the San Jose Police Department said.
Kassi, 25, will make his first court appearance in a Santa Clara County courtroom on Monday afternoon to enter a plea. “Kassi sexually exploited children online,” Sgt. Christian Camarillo wrote.
Police said a sextortionist posed as a teen girl online with the name “Emily Smith” to trick boys into recording and sending sexually explicit videos. Kassi was in charge of collecting blackmail money from the boys and sending it to his co-conspirator on the Ivory Coast of Africa, police said.
“San Jose Police ICAC identified Jonathan Kassi as a person involved in the sextortion of a 17-year-old resident of San Jose which resulted in his suicide,” Camarillo wrote.
The boy was identified by the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office as Ryan Last.
According to court documents obtained by KRON4, the boy left a note for his family informing them that someone had blackmailed him and that he could not “live with myself anymore.”
On February 25, Last believed that a teen named “Emily” had asked him join her in a Google Hangout video chat, investigators said. “Emily” was actually a sextortionist on the Ivory Coast using an email account firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the video chat, “The direct perpetrator … told the victim to expose his face and his penis. (The perpetrator) took screenshots of the victim’s penis and face during the video chat (and) informed the victim,” police wrote.
“(The perpetrator) told the victim that if he did not pay him $5,000, he would post the victim’s photos … on YouTube. The victim stated he did not have money and begged (the perpetrator) not to post his intimate photos. (The perpetrator) then told the victim if he provided the victim’s Instagram name and password, he would not post the intimate photos. The victim provided the requested name and password,” police Det. Jose Montoya wrote in a criminal complaint.
Once the perpetrator had access to the victim’s Instagram account, he threatened to send the sexually explicit images to the victim’s friends, family, and contacts through Instagram. The boy agreed to send Kassi $150 through Zelle on February 26. But as soon as Kassi received the money, he demanded more money, police said.
At 1:45 a.m. on February 26, the victim sent his last message to Kassi pleading to not “ruin his life,” Montoya wrote. Just fifteen minutes later, the boy killed himself, according to police.
Last’s mother, Pauline Stuart, told KRON4 that her son was a member of Future Farmers of America and was planning to attend Washington State University.
Stuart said she had parental controls on her son’s electronics, but parents must sit down with their kids. “Talk to your kids about what apps they are on, and make them understand that not everybody that reaches out to them is who they say they are,” she told KRON4.
Last left a note behind for his parents that helped detectives piece together what led up to his death.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for the Google account email@example.com.
The Google account was created February 25, just a few hours before the video chat. The IP address was traced to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Africa.
When Kassi was using his real name to exchange money through his bank, he used the Google account firstname.lastname@example.org. That Google account was created in 2013 with an IP address also traced to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Africa. Detectives pinpointed the IP’s most recent login information to an Internet Service Provider in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The Zelle account of kassijonathan@gmaiLcom was linked to Kassi’s Varo bank account. Review of the Zelle account revealed deposits paid by other victims, including a 15-year-old boy who lived in Illinois, police said.
The other victims “told me that they both had video chat conversations on Google Hangouts. They both exposed their face and penis,” Montoya wrote.
Detectives reviewed the Varo bank transactions, found several deposits via Zelle, and identified withdrawals in the thousands of dollars from Varo to a Western Union bank account on the Ivory Coast.
Montoya wrote, “I identified Jonathan Kassi via the California DMV. He was born 02/21/1997,
driver’s license Y8376339, residing in Reseda, CA. Sergeant Pierce informed me that Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Xiomara Flores had told him that Jonathan Kassi was from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Africa.”
Kassi was arrested in Van Nuys last week by Los Angeles Police Department officers, transported to San Jose, and booked into a Santa Clara County jail on December 16. He is being held behind bars with no bail.
“Based on the totality of the investigation, I believe that Jonathan Kassi poses an extreme threat to public safety, specifically children. The financial stress, the threat of intimate video/photographs published on the Internet, and the impact the exposure would have on the Victim’s reputation, family/friend dynamics, and professional life poses real threat to the victims. I believe these extortion schemes cause severe mental and emotional trauma on these Victims resulting in self-harm or suicide,” Montoya wrote.
SJPD detectives believe there could be additional victims due to Kassi’s criminal pattern and use of social media to target minors. Anyone with information about this case, or other cases involving Kassi, is asked to contact Sergeant Pierce of the San Jose Police Department’s ICAC Unit at 408-537-1397 or email email@example.com.