In the aftermath of her son’s death, Pauline Stuart of San Jose used the word “evil” to describe those who preyed on the boy.
Stuart talked to CNN about the incident, which began in February when Ryan — a straight-A student and Boy Scout — was texting back and forth with someone he thought was a girl.
As one thing led to another, the person sent him a nude photo and asked for one in return.
A few hours later, Ryan would be dead.
Immediately after he sent a photo, the teen received a demand for $5,000, accompanied by a threat to send the picture to his family and friends if he did not pay up. After Ryan said he didn’t have that much money, the demand was lowered to $150, which he paid — but the scammer didn’t stop there.
“They kept demanding more and more and putting lots of continued pressure on him,” Stuart said.
She recalled that she said goodnight to her son around 10 p.m. that night. By 2 a.m. the next day, the 17-year-old had taken his life, leaving behind a note to explain what took place.
“He really, truly thought in that time that there wasn’t a way to get by if those pictures were actually posted online,” Stuart said. “His note showed he was absolutely terrified. No child should have to be that scared.”
“How could these people look at themselves in the mirror knowing that $150 is more important than a child’s life?” she said. “There’s no other word but ‘evil’ for me that they care much more about money than a child’s life.
“I don’t want anybody else to go through what we did.”
“The embarrassment piece of this is probably one of the bigger hurdles that the victims have to overcome,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dan Costin told CNN. “It can be a lot, especially in that moment.”
Costin said scammers in sextortion cases are often from Africa or Southeast Asia.