Crime & Courts

Alaska girl’s report leads to arrest of alleged ringleader in international child porn network

U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building

This story originally appeared on Alaska Public Media and is republished here with permission.

An Alaska girl’s report to authorities that she had been extorted for sexually explicit images of herself started an investigation into what prosecutors say is “one of the most malicious” child pornography schemes the FBI has ever seen.

The investigation that she set in motion also led to the arrest of a man described as the conspiracy’s ringleader more than 6,000 miles away: Zobaidul Amin, a 24-year-old Bangladeshi national the Royal Malaysia Police apprehended in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in September.

“We had a victim here in Alaska who, to her great credit, had the courage to make a report to the Alaska State Troopers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Alexander said Thursday. “And then we’re very fortunate here just to have close working relationships between state and local and federal law enforcement agencies.”

A grand jury had indicted Amin in July on 13 charges related to his alleged sexual exploitation of children through social media apps, according to a redacted version of the indictment that a judge ordered unsealed Wednesday.

According to the indictment, Amin posed as a teenager on Instagram to meet minors, who he convinced to send him sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves on a different social media app, Snapchat. He then allegedly threatened to send the child pornography to the victims’ friends, family or classmates if they stopped sending photos and videos, a threat he followed through on multiple occasions.

The indictment, which includes more than 30 aliases for Amin, all redacted, says Snapchat would shut down Amin’s accounts for violating its terms of service, but he repeatedly opened new accounts.

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The indictment says Amin distributed the child pornography to other co-conspirators, whose names are also redacted, using the file-sharing app Dropbox.

Federal prosecutors with the Department of Justice said in a statement Thursday that Amin had targeted hundreds of victims, and according to the indictment, at least one was as young as 11 years old. There are 28 listed in the indictment and identified by letters of the alphabet.

Alexander, the prosecutor, said Amin allegedly had victims in at least 15 states.

And offenders like Amin tend to try to take advantage of a child’s understandable shame of being exploited by using threats, Alexander said.

“What that means is they will try to find all of the friends and family members and associates a child has on a social media platform or on multiple platforms, and then exploit the child by extorting them to produce more images of child exploitation by threatening to release the ones they already have to literally everyone the child knows,” Alexander said.

That’s what is alleged to have happened to the girl from Alaska identified in the indictment only as “Victim A,” who communicated with Amin from September to December of 2021.

Amin used a partially nude photo of Victim A that he’d gotten from another minor to coerce her into sending him nude photos that included her face, and, later, he convinced her to participate in video calls with him in which she engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to the indictment.

When Victim A stopped communicating with Amin, he sent the videos to her friends and family, the indictment says. Amin allegedly used similar manipulative tactics on each of the other victims.

The FBI’s Anchorage Field Office, and its Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, continues to investigate the case. They’re asking that anyone with more information about Amin’s activities call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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