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BYU student charged in sex extortion case; police identify second victim

A man attending BYU was charged Monday with sexually exploiting two girls after he allegedly threatened to publicly post explicit photos if they didn't send him more photos.

A man attending BYU was charged Monday with sexually exploiting two girls after he allegedly threatened to publicly post explicit photos if they didn't send him more photos. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

PROVO — A 20-year-old college student was charged Monday in a sextorition investigation case involving a 16-year-old Utah County girl.

And prosecutors say they have also identified a second victim.

Benjamin Christopher Shields, 20, who is from Gaithersburg, Maryland, but was living in Provo attending Brigham Young University at the time of his arrest, was charged Monday in 4th District Court with aggravated sexual extortion of a child, a first-degree felony; plus aggravated sexual extortion and sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies.

The investigation began in May when Lehi police learned of a 16-year-old girl who had sent nude pictures of herself to a person on Snapchat who offered her money.

The girl told police that the person on Snapchat initially offered her $46,000 for an explicit video chat with her, then offered $50 to $100 for pictures, according to a police booking affidavit. The girl agreed to send pictures, but police say no money was ever received.

Shields then threatened to post the pictures she sent to him on the internet if she did not send more, according to the charging documents.

"(The girl) continued to send him multiple pictures, but eventually told her mother about it. An investigation was performed and officers were able to identify a potential suspect by tracing his IP address. The IP address was linked to a residence in Maryland," the charges state.

Police learned that Shields had moved to Provo to attend BYU and they arrested him on campus. Investigators then conducted a search of Shields' phone and found "multiple Snapchat accounts with messages to multiple females, many of which were minors. The messages offer to pay the females thousands of dollars" in exchange for sexual acts, according to the charges.

Shields would lie to the girls about his age and encouraged girls "to send him photos even after learning that they are as young as 11 years old," the charges say.

Detectives were able to identify a second victim who sent nude photos of herself to Shields and he later threatened to release the pictures publicly if she didn't send him more, the charges state, even when the girl told him how distressed she was over it.

"(Shields) states that he does not want to make her feel bad, but that he cannot help himself," the charging documents state.

The court records do not say how old the second girl is.

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