His crimes were prolific and perverted.
A 31-year-old Florida man trolled social media sites for girls and young women he could coerce and threaten into sending him nude and sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves, the FBI says.
Over several years, he preyed on nearly 350 females across the United States and in other countries.
Before a tip from one victim’s family led investigators to him, Lucas Michael Chansler amassed 80,000 pornographic images, federal authorities say. He apparently did not sell them.
Chansler’s in federal prison now, locked up for decades, but only about a third of his “sextortion” victims know that.
That is why the FBI is undertaking a nationwide search to identify and contact the approximately 240 victims who might still be living in fear.
“It’s important that we find these girls so that they don’t have to be looking over their shoulder, wondering if this guy is still out there, and is he looking for them, and is he going to be coming back,” FBI Special Agent Larry Meyer said in a news release.
The crimes devastated Chansler’s victims. Some dropped out of school. Others attempted suicide, according to the FBI.
Besides providing victims with peace of mind, the FBI wants to provide them information about help and counseling available to them.
The nature of the crime leaves many victims in a constant state of anxiety and dread because they don’t know how widely their pictures have been disseminated, said Julie Donelson, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.
“We hear from adolescents who look at everyone and wonder if they’ve seen their picture,” Donelson said. “It’s a really hard concept for them to grasp that those pictures are out there forever.”
Victims too often feel a sense of guilt and are afraid to tell anybody for fear of getting in trouble.
“It’s important for these teens to know that they can call for help and it’s not their fault,” Donelson said. “They have been tricked and manipulated by adults.”
Like many adults who commit online sextortion, Chansler gained the trust of his victims by posing as a peer. He portrayed himself online as a 15-year-old boy and used more than 100 different online names to contact girls ages13 to18.
Once he talked them into sending him revealing pictures or videos, he would threaten to send them to the victims’ family and friends unless they continued to send him more graphic images.
One of his victims, who was 14 when she fell prey to his scheme, is speaking publicly to help other young women.
Ashley Reynolds said he contacted her and claimed to have revealing pictures. He demanded more, and in an effort to protect her reputation, she complied.
In a video interview released by the FBI, Reynolds said she felt like his “slave,” having to comply with any demand he made.
She said she felt trapped and afraid to tell anyone.
“I remember just lying in bed in silence and just thinking,” she said. “I felt like God was so disappointed in me, and I didn’t know what to do.”
After she endured several months of anguish, her parents discovered what was happening, and it relieved her.
“Just knowing that someone else knows, that someone else is aware, that I am not the only one who knows what I have been doing. It is just bricks off of your back,” Reynolds said.
After doing research about sextortion, her mother contacted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. There an analyst discovered that someone using the same screen name as Chansler also had victimized someone else in a different state.
Investigators with the center and the FBI traced the threatening communications to Chansler’s computer.
After agents served a search warrant, they discovered thousands of pornographic pictures and videos.
On some, victims cried and pleaded with Chansler as they were forced to send him graphic images.
Investigators also found logs of online chats and folders with information about victims marked “done” and “prospects.”
Last year, Chansler was sentenced to 105 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to multiple charges.
Authorities have diligently continued efforts to find more victims.
In some cases, they gleaned telltale clues from seized photos and videos.
They found one victim because her high school’s name was reflected in the window she and friends posed in front of for a picture. In another video, a radio station banner hanging on a girl’s bedroom wall helped authorities determine what city she lived in and ultimately locate her.
To date, authorities have found victims in 26 states, including one in southeastern Kansas. Several others live in Canada, and one was traced to the United Kingdom.
But only 109 of the approximately 350 victims have been identified.
Though none of his known victims has been found in the Kansas City area, other area girls have fallen victim to similar predators here.
Earlier this year, a Kansas City man was sentenced in Platte County Circuit Court to 18 years in prison for attempting to sextort a 16-year-old girl. After convincing the girl to send him a nude picture, 23-year-old Denis Aguilar threatened to post it online if she didn’t have sex with him.
In another case, federal prosecutors in Kansas City charged a 28-year-old Oklahoma man who obtained sexually explicit pictures from a 14-year-old Missouri girl. Jeran Secratt pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In Chansler’s case, the FBI is seeking information from anyone who may know a victim or may have been victimized. Tipsters and victims can get more information and complete a confidential questionnaire at FBI.gov/sextortion.
Like many other girls who fall victim to predators like Chansler, Reynolds said she never dreamed that something like that could happen to her.
“I’m Ashley. This can’t happen to me. I’m normal,” she said of her mindset. “But little did I know that I ended up getting terrorized … by this guy.”