Horry County man charged in alleged sextortion scheme

08/06/2014 6:13 PM

08/07/2014 6:13 AM

An Horry County man who was suspected in a sextortion scheme involving a 14-year-old girl has been indicted on child pornography charges, according to documents filed Wednesday in federal court in Florence.

Mark Robert Reynolds, of Pinto Lane in unincorporated Horry County, is facing two felony charges of receipt and distribution of child pornography and one felony charge of possessing child pornography involving a prepubescent minor.

The charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 60 years in prison. An arraignment hearing for Reynolds is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 28 in Florence.

Homeland Security Investigations executed a search warrant at the Pinto Lane home in July after investigating allegations that a man living there had pressured a 14-year-old girl from Michigan into sending him nude images of herself.

The charge involving a prepubescent minor stems from items seized during the search. Investigators also seized a laptop computer, a Nook tablet, a PlayStation Portable and unspecified documents.

According to an affidavit included with the search warrant documents, the Tuscola County, Mich., Sheriff’s Office met with the 14-year-old girl’s parents in February after learning of nude images of the girl stored on her iPod.

The girl told police that she had been contacted by a stranger via the Instagram picture and message sharing service. While communicating with the stranger through Instagram and Kik Messenger, the girl sent the stranger a picture of herself wearing a bathing suit as well as a picture of herself wearing underwear.

The stranger, who claimed to be an 18-year-old male from Georgia, then requested nude photos of the girl and threatened to post the pictures she had already sent online if she did not comply. The girl eventually sent the nude photos and the stranger continued to pressure her into sending more explicit pictures, again threatening to post those she had already sent if she did not respond.

The girl told police that the photographs the stranger requested “ranged from photographs of the [girl] nude to photographs for which the [stranger] specifically directed the [girl] into sexual poses and activities,” according to the affidavit.

The alleged sextortion continued while the girl was on vacation with her parents, according to the affidavit. The parents recalled their daughter spending hours at a time in the bathroom while on the vacation and the girl later confirmed that she was communicating with the stranger and sending photos during that time.

The girl made numerous attempts to break contact with the stranger, at which point he would threaten to post her photos online. At one point when the girl stopped sending photos, the stranger contacted one of her Instagram friends “demanding the [girl] contact the suspect,” the affidavit states.

Investigators were able to trace the IP addresses used to contact the girl and receive the photos to the Pinto Lane home, according to court documents.

The affidavit in support of a search warrant named several individuals, although it is not clear whether more charges are pending.

Reynolds states on his Facebook page that he is a 2010 graduate of Socastee High School and a 2014 graduate of Coastal Carolina University.

Sextortion is a growing Internet crime in which predators contact children through Facebook and other social media sites, gain their trust and then blackmail them into engaging in sex or sending lewd photos over the Internet.

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a Justice Department program that helps state and local law enforcement battle sexual exploitation of children, said such cases totaled 7,000 nationwide in 2013 – up from 5,300 cases just three years earlier.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281 or via twitter at @David_Wren_

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