Mascoutah man sentenced for blackmailing young girls online to obtain nude photos

A Mascoutah man is heading to federal prison after spending years blackmailing young girls online for nude photos.

Joshua P. Breckel, 21, was sentenced to 35 years on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle, a news release from the Southern District of Illinois stated. The sentencing comes three months after Breckel pleaded guilty to a 10-count felony indictment.

Beginning in early 2016 and continuing until his arrest on July 8, 2018, Breckel used computers, mobile phones, interactive computer services and the internet to obtain sexually explicit images and videos from dozens of female minors throughout the U.S. and internationally, the release stated.

Breckel found his victims on social media and through messaging applications, including Facebook, Instagram, LiveMe, Kik and Snapchat. He was able to persuade them to send the nude photos by feigning a romantic interest in them, offering them money or threatening them.

According to the release, Breckel would often ask the girls to include their faces in the pictures or to hold up three fingers in order to prove he was getting true images of them. Most of the girls who sent Breckel naked pictures did so through Snapchat, an app known for making message content inaccessible to recipients shortly after it is received.

Breckel, however, would use a screen recording device to capture and save the compromising images before they disappeared. Then he would threaten to send the photos to the girls’ family friends and online contacts unless they sent him additional photos and videos following his instructions.

Some victims complied with Breckel’s demands, but others did not, the release stated. Those who did were often subjected to escalating extortion demands and more threats, until they eventually stopped communication with him. Breckel traded some of the explicit images and videos he obtained with other internet users using Kik, a messaging app.

In April 2018, a 15-year-old New Jersey girl identified by the initials C.S. reported to her mother that she had been threatened online by someone on the Whisper app with the screen name “User_Pure” and the Snapchat app with the screen name “thatonekidukno1.” Local law enforcement then traced the user accounts back to Breckel’s home in Mascoutah, the release stated.

As part of his plea deal with the U.S., Breckel admitted to sending the threatening messages to C.S. in an attempt to obtain sexually explicit photos and videos of her, according to the release. He also pleaded guilty to producing and distributing child pornography and sending extortionate threats over the internet.

Among his victims were three 15-year-old girls from California, Pennsylvania and Illinois, a 12-year-old girl from Illinois and a 10-year-old girl from Ohio. Breckel admitted that he threatened to kill the Ohio girl if she didn’t send him naked pictures of herself.

Judge Yandle imposed the 35-year sentence to send a general deterrence message to other would-be offenders, the release stated. She noted that as a society, “we are living in a different world. A world where it is common for young people to engage in online relationships, share intimate digital photos and not be bothered by cyber intimidation and bullying.”

Yandle also said that the long sentence would ensure the protection of the public. According to the release, the mother of one victim gave an impact statement at sentencing and discussed the damage that the crime had done to her daughter, including that her daughter had become depressed, withdrawn from her friends and lost interest in her hobbies and school activities.

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Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.