** Watch related coverage in the player above: A local family shares their son’s victimization by sextortion. **
AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — A Ravenna man who attempted to sexually exploit a child and also cyberstalked and blackmailed others online using sensitive photos was sentenced Tuesday to more than 12 years behind bars for the sextortion schemes.
Between November 2019 and September 2021, Andrew J. Drabic, 33, of Ravenna, used social engineering tactics to gain access to personal social media accounts of several victims in Northeast Ohio, stole images and extorted victims, according to a Tuesday news release from Northern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Michelle Baeppler.
“It takes great courage for victims to come forward and report coercive behavior and predatory tactics to law enforcement,” Baeppler is quoted in the release. “Because these victims came forward, this defendant was brought to justice, a minor was prevented from further harm, and our communities and children are now safer.”
Drabic used the sensitive images and files he stole to intimidate victims, threatening to release them publicly. In some cases, he followed through with those threats, according to the release.
Authorities seized several of Drabic’s computers, cell phones, storage accessories and other devices during a January 2022 search of his Ravenna home, according to the release. On those electronic devices, investigators found sexually explicit messages between Drabic and a child victim, in which Drabic directed the child to perform sexual acts and send sexually explicit photographs.
Drabic was indicted in March on 11 counts including cyberstalking, attempted sexual exploitation of a child and interstate communication with the intent to extort, court documents show. He pleaded guilty to all counts in July. His plea agreement remains sealed.
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Drabic to 151 months in prison.
“This defendant used deceptive tactics to extort and blackmail numerous victims throughout Northeast Ohio and sexually exploited a minor,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nelsen is quoted in the release. “The investigative work of the FBI underscores our duty to protect children from monstrous individuals determined to control others through manipulation and cyberstalking. We will continue to work closely with our federal, state, and local partners to find, identify and investigate predatory behavior and bring justice to the victims of these horrendous crimes.”
Sextortion on the rise
The FBI last month said it was issuing a national public safety alert amid increasing sextortion cases among U.S. teens — 10 times as many reports from the year prior, the Associated Press reported.
At least 3,000 children, mostly teenage boys, have been victims of the schemes that are connected to more than a dozen suicides last year, a scale that U.S. authorities have not seen before, Justice Department officials said last month. Many think they are chatting online with kids around their own age but are quickly manipulated into sending explicit pictures and then blackmailed for money with threats to release the images, the FBI said.
Streetsboro 17-year-old James Woods, who was the target of a sextortion scheme, according to his parents, died by suicide in November.
“It happened so fast, in under 24 hours,” his mother, Tamia Woods, told FOX 8’s Wayne Dawson.
“He hid it,” she said. “He was trying to make it go away.”
Local officials in November said more Streetsboro teens are being targeted by similar predators.
“The Woods family, through their incredible strength, ‘wants to ensure that this does not happen to other families. Please talk to your children and make sure you know what is going on with them,'” reads a November news release from city police and the school district. “Our greatest fear at this point is that our community suffers another tragedy.
“Despite the grief taking place, the Woods family was very clear in their message that they want to communicate: ‘Educate! We want to educate families about sextortion, and we want to encourage all families to make sure they are checking their kids’ social media accounts and making sure they are staying safe!'”
Those who believe they are victims of sextortion should report the crime to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or going to tips.fbi.gov.