A man who posed as a model agency scout to manipulate and blackmail young girls into sending indecent photos and videos of themselves, has pleaded guilty to 50 offences.
National Crime Agency officers identified Ishmael Duncan, 24, as the person behind Snapchat accounts, which were used to coerce and threaten children into sending explicit images.
The NCA was notified by child protection colleagues in the US after two sisters reported being threatened and forced to send sexually explicit images to one of the accounts.
Analysis of IP data relating to the fake Snapchat profiles showed that the accounts related to multiple locations.
Ishmael Duncan appeared at Inner London Crown Court
But the NCA was able to establish that Duncan was linked to all of them.
He was arrested in July 2021 at his home in Lambeth, South London and a number of devices were seized.
Material recovered from these and cloud storage included chat logs from the various Snapchat accounts Duncan used, as well as indecent images he had extorted from children.
The case against him involved offences against 28 female victims, some as young as nine.
The victims were from the UK, US, Canada and Australia. However, investigators believe he contacted close to 10,000 children online from these accounts.
He would begin by approaching potential victims to ask if they were interested in becoming a model for well-known fashion brands.
Those that responded would be asked for their age and personal details before he requested clothed images or videos.
He then took them through a lengthy interview process to build their trust, and sent them legitimate looking contracts, which featured the impersonated brand’s logo.
He would request topless photos on the pretext of assessing the victims’ body shape, and to use as a base for editing in potential clothes to be modelled.
Girls who challenged this were told the original photos would be deleted after editing. But some were threatened with being ‘blacklisted’ from modelling if they failed to comply.
Duncan contacted victims from multiple accounts and adopted different personas within the model agency to give a sense of authenticity, including ‘Callum’ the photographer and ‘Mark’ the general manager of the models' division.
He then created another account to contact the same victims, sometimes many months later, threatening to expose and share their photos unless they complied with his demands for more images.
Part of this process was to send the following text: “This is an automated message. We have your nudes, and unless you reply to this message saying “I understand", they will be sent out to expose accounts on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. If you reply with anything else other than “I understand”, or if you block or unfriend this account, your nudes will be sent out. This is your first and only warning.”
Separate to his modelling approach, he targeted other potential victims claiming to be a child of a similar age, requesting sexual images and videos. He blackmailed a 14-year-old girl with learning difficulties who sent him images, and also offered her $1,000 to engage in a sexual act with her brother.
In total, officers recovered 19,120 indecent images of children from his devices and cloud storage.
Duncan was charged with 53 counts, including causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, blackmail, sexual communication with a child, indecent and prohibited images of children and possession of extreme pornographic images.
He appeared at Inner London Crown Court on 21 August this year, where he admitted to 42 of the counts.
He has now admitted to a further eight counts.
Duncan is due to be sentenced at the same court on 1 December.
National Crime Agency Operations Manager Martin Ludlow said: “Ishmael Duncan cruelly preyed on young girls who had dreams of becoming models. “The threatening messages he sent were chilling and showed his callous disregard for the victims he exploited for his own sexual gratification in this case.
“The NCA worked closely with overseas partners to identify and safeguard victims, a number of whom provided evidence against Duncan.
“We will continue to operate online and internationally to target those offenders who pose the most serious risk to children.”