Snapchat attacks continue unabated

Anyone who has followed the Delphi murder case and is familiar with the Kegan Kline police interview transcript might understandably wonder what the hell is going on with these social media messaging apps.  According to media outlets, Snapchat and Kik were the preferred avenues for Kegan Kline to connect with underage victims and solicit illegal images.  Well, it turns out Kline is not the only predator who has had success utilizing these platforms to victimize children.  In fact, the modus operandi is so common in the State of Indiana alone, that one wonders if there isn’t a playbook these criminal deviants follow.

A June press release from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana offers up two such graduates of the Snapchat and Kik school of child exploitation and victimization.  The June 17, 2022 release titled Two Predators Sentenced to Federal Prison for Sexually Exploiting Four Children They met on Social Media Platforms reads in part:

“INDIANAPOLIS – Thomas James Israel, 46, of Ft. Wayne, and Max Schafer, 31, of Brownsburg, were each sentenced to federal prison for their role in exploiting four children between October 2019 and August 2020. One of the victims was exploited by both Israel and Schafer during separate incidents. Israel previously pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child and distribution of child sexual abuse material. On November 15, 2021, Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt sentenced Israel to twenty-five years in federal prison. Late yesterday, Schafer pleaded guilty to receipt of visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct and possession of child sexual abuse material. District Judge James R. Sweeney II sentenced Schafer to over fourteen years (175 months) in federal prison.

“According to court documents, between April 2020 and June 2020, Israel met his first minor victim, who was 14, using online applications such as Omegle and Meetme. Using Snapchat and Kik, Israel persuaded this victim to meet with him in person, then forced the victim into sadomasochistic sexual abuse, including forceful oral sex and assault. Israel recorded the sexual abuse on his mobile phone and later sent the video to the victim.

“Israel met a second minor victim using Snapchat and persuaded the victim to send him explicit videos and photos of herself. When this victim was between 14 and 16 years old, she sent her minor boyfriend sexually explicit images and videos of herself. Without her consent, the boyfriend disseminated the images and videos over the internet. Israel downloaded those images and videos onto his online storage account and viewed them for a sexual purpose. 

“Israel met his third minor victim, who was between 14 and 16 years’ old, over Omegle. Knowing that the victim suffered from mental health issues, Israel induced her to produce child sex abuse material, and to sell the images and videos to others online. Israel took a percentage of the fees and paid the victim by sending her gift cards from Victoria’s Secret.

“According to court documents, Schafer also met Israel’s first minor victim using Omegle. Knowing that the minor victim was only fourteen years old, Schafer met and engaged in sexually explicit conduct with the victim. Schafer also persuaded the victim to send him the video that Israel produced, depicting Israel’s violent sexual abuse of the child.

“Schafer also met his second minor victim, who was 16, using Omegle and Snapchat. Schafer persuaded this girl to send him sexually explicit images and videos of herself for his sexual purpose.

“Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana and Herbert J. Stapleton, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Indianapolis Field Office made the announcement.

“The FBI Violent Crime Task Force investigated the case. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department also provided valuable assistance. As part of Israel’s sentence, Judge Pratt ordered that he be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for life following his release from prison and pay $16,000 in restitution to the victims. As part of Schafer’s sentence, Judge Sweeney ordered that he be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 40 years following his release from prison and pay $6,000 in restitution to the victims. Both Israel and Schafer must also register as sex offenders wherever they live, work, or go to school, as required by law.”

Here again, we have yet another example of the social media apps Snapchat and Kik facilitating a connection between predators and their victims for the purpose of exploitation and abuse.  As we saw with Kegan Kline, who quite openly and brazenly attempted to victimize children using the online profile Emily Anne 45, often the profile ruse is dropped while the predator looks for a reaction to suggestions of sexual activity between the minor and a much older adult.  In one interaction, Kline solicits images and information on behalf of his middle-aged father, which eventually leads to a Skype call taking place.  How is it that these messaging apps, for all their sophistication, allow these clearly illegal conversations to slip by without any red flags going up?

The cases of Israel and Schafer provide a further glimpse into the despicable world these predators inhabit and may even indicate a level of coordination between them.  Israel is using the social media apps Snapchat and Kik to solicit sexual abuse material and arrange meetings to inflict violent abuse and produce CSAM.  He appears to possess an extensive knowledge of ways to choose the most vulnerable and inflict his sadistic abuse on them for pleasure and profit.  For his part, Schafer is abusing at least one of the same victims as Israel, and he’s aware of the video Israel produced with that victim.  

It is difficult to discern with certainty from the press release, but is it the case that these predators are communicating and coordinating with one another on some level?  Are they “sharing” victims?  Israel targets a teen who has already been victimized by her boyfriend.  Schafer targets one of Israel’s victims.  It certainly appears that, at least at some level, these predators are loosely associated.  It is more than just the case that they are swimming in the same waters, but that they are exchanging victims and probably even exchanging information on how to exploit the vulnerabilities of these victims.  Israel produced a video that was in demand.  He also coerced one of his victims to make videos to sell for his monetary benefit.  Obviously, there is a market for these videos.  We know these predators exchange videos, but are they also exchanging information with designs on inflicting abuse?  Could Kegan Kline, as seemingly “a member in good standing” in one of these pedophile circles, have passed on information to a member with extremely violent intentions, who turned around and used that knowledge to carry out his twisted fantasies on two innocent children of Delphi.  It appears increasingly likely.

Following Kegan Kline disclosures, predators continue to utilize Snapchat to claim victims

Following the release in March of a police interview transcript obtained by The Murder Sheet podcast that revealed Kegan Kline of Peru, Indiana, allegedly utilized the social media platform Snapchat to obtain sexually explicit photos of underage girls, multiple offenders in the intervening months have been convicted in Indiana of using Snapchat and Facebook to prey upon underage victims.  

According to WTHR, Kegan Kline currently sits in jail facing 30 charges involving child pornography and child exploitation after admitting “to creating the social media profile ‘anthony_shots’ to meet underage girls and receive sexually explicit photos.”  Kline is also alleged to have been one of the last to communicate with Liberty German prior to her murder on February 13, 2017.

Since these revelations, multiple offenders have been prosecuted and convicted in Indiana for soliciting sexual abuse material from underage victims.  However, even more disturbing, some offenders have used these platforms to meet with victims for the purpose of committing acts of abuse.  According to a May 5, 2022 Department of Justice, Southern District of Indiana press release:

“Gerald Hoye, 43, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison following his guilty plea to sexual exploitation of a child.

“According to court documents, agents with the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that sexually explicit images of a child had been sent from a child’s Facebook account to an adult’s Facebook account. Further information received from NCMEC showed sexually explicit conversations were taking place through Facebook Messenger between the child and the adult.

“Law enforcement officers determined the adult was Hoye, a then-41-year-old truck driver living in Indianapolis. The child victim lived in another state and was under 16 years old. Hoye coerced and manipulated the child by offering her money in exchange for sexually explicit photos and videos. In September of 2019, Hoye traveled to the victim’s home and transported her to another state, where he engaged in illegal sexual conduct with the child.”

For all its sophisticated algorithms, Facebook relies on the NCMEC to detect and identify the exploitation of a child over its own messaging app.  These interactions escalated to the point where “Hoye traveled to the victim’s home and transported her to another state, where he engaged in illegal sexual conduct with the child.”  That is extremely terrifying.  How is it the case that Facebook can detect alleged misinformation on its platform and shut that down, but is apparently clueless when a felony is taking place?    

Around the time the public was learning of Kegan Kline’s horrific exploits, another man was convicted in the Southern District of Indiana for committing similar offenses via Snapchat.  According to a March 17, 2022 DOJ press release: 

“Matthew O. Walker, 28, of Augusta, Georgia, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to the sexual exploitation of a child.

“According to court documents, Walker sexually exploited 3 Indiana children and 2 children from South Carolina. Walker first came to the attention of federal authorities in the fall of 2019, when Walker had engaged in sexually explicit Snapchat communications with two minor boys in the Southern District of Indiana. Walker misrepresented himself on Snapchat as a teenage girl, persuading minors to create and send him images and videos of themselves engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Walker threatened the minors that he would distribute these images and videos of these minors to their respective families if they did not do as he instructed.

“Federal investigators discovered that Walker was living in Georgia. With assistance from law enforcement there, a search warrant was executed at Walker’s residence. Evidence was seized and Walker admitted to communication with multiple underage boys online. Walker also admitted to receiving child sexual abuse material through Snapchat and other social media platforms. Walker pled guilty to sexual exploitation of a child in a plea that incorporated his criminal conduct against three Indiana children and others.”

Snapchat was also the social media platform of choice for a Bartholomew County, Indiana man who pled guilty to sexually exploiting children in Indiana and California and received over 27 years in federal prison.  According to a February 18, 2022 DOJ press release:

“According to court documents, Jordan Fields, 21, of Columbus, Indiana, sexually exploited children in Indiana and California, and admitted to other acts of exploitation against unknown minors. Fields first came to the attention of federal authorities in the fall of 2020, when law enforcement in California notified authorities in Indiana that Fields had engaged in sexually explicit Snapchat communications with a 13-year-old boy in California.

“The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation and executed a search warrant at Fields’ home on Nov. 13, 2020. Fields was initially arrested on state charges of child solicitation and possession of child pornography. A team from the Indiana State Police, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI reviewed evidence seized from Fields’ home, and Fields was arrested on federal sexual exploitation charges in March of 2021. 

“Fields admitted to communication with multiple underage boys online and admitted to receiving child sexual abuse material through Snapchat and Omegle. Fields pled guilty to three counts of sexual exploitation of a child for his victimization of three southern Indiana children.”

Another Indianapolis man was convicted in May after it was discovered that he had used Facebook to sexually exploit a child.  Per the Department of Justice:

“Ryan Niendorf, 39, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison following his guilty plea to sexual exploitation of a child and attempted sexual exploitation of a child.

“According to court documents, in May 2021, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that an adult’s Facebook account had been used to engage in sexually explicit communication with a child’s Facebook account. Law enforcement officers determined the adult was Niendorf, a semi-truck driver living in Indianapolis, and police were able to locate the child. Based on forensic evidence found in Niendorf’s account, police arrested Niendorf. Further investigation showed Niendorf persuaded two minors, both less than 16 years of age, to produce sexually explicit videos.”

Based on the information that has surfaced regarding the activities of Kegan Kline aka anthony-shots on the social media platform Snapchat, it is disturbing to see so many additional cases where Snapchat and Facebook were used to intimidate and exploit children, obtain child sexual abuse material, and to even facilitate meetings for the purposes of committing acts of abuse against children.  The preceding cases represent just a few of the convictions obtained within the past few months and are limited to the Southern District of Indiana jurisdiction.  There are other Indiana cases where the internet and/or social media was involved, but specific platforms were not named in the press releases.  Obviously, if one were to expand out to a wider time frame, or to include other jurisdictions than just one in Indiana, the scope of the horror would increase significantly. 

One would hope that eliminating this type of predatory behavior would be a top priority of these social media companies.  But here we are, five years removed from the murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German, and Snapchat and Facebook continue to be platforms where predators go to victimize children.  We may one day learn that Liberty’s Snapchat activity played no role in the Delphi homicides, but the Kegan Kline interview illustrates in disturbing clarity how vulnerable children are to abuse on these platforms.  While the NCMEC is to be commended for their efforts to monitor these platforms and expose child predators, why aren’t the tech companies themselves doing more to clean up these spaces?