'Sextortion' suspect set for freedom

An accused child pornographer is just days away from walking out of jail after a court hearing in Fresno on Monday.
March 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
An accused child pornographer is just days away from walking out of jail after a court hearing in Fresno on Monday.

Brian Caputo, 25, faces decades in prison for a crime federal prosecutors are calling "sextortion." Prosecutors say Caputo used social media to contact tweens and teens for the last six to eight years. They called him a flight risk and a danger to the community. But the Arvin native is now scheduled to go home on Friday.

A fairly standard Facebook page pops up in the name of Brian Caputo. But FBI agents say they forensically linked this account to six other "fake" accounts -- under names like Giavanna Derann, Catness Love and Melissa Harpson. Agents say Caputo used those accounts to befriend girls between the ages of eight and 13. Once he got a single naked photo or video from them, he'd use it to demand more from those girls and their friends.

"This isn't a normal child pornography case," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "This is beyond that. Not only did he download it, but he was extorting young kids to entice them to create more child pornography."

Agents say Caputo wandered around a lot -- from Fresno to Kern County -- but they traced a large quantity of child pornography to IP addresses at his mother's apartment in Arvin. They say the 25-year-old admitted to collecting pornographic images since he was 16. But it didn't come to the surface until a 12-year-old girl in El Paso, Texas, told on him. Prosecutors say her 11-year-old friend had given Caputo pictures and he was threatening to post them everywhere if the 12-year-old didn't do the same.

"Often children, once victimized, for whatever reason, may be reluctant to provide that information to their parents because they fear their device may be taken away," said David Gappa, who's prosecuting the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Federal prosecutors say this type of "sextortion" is becoming more common. In an Alabama case, a young man pretended to be pop star Justin Bieber on social media to collect pictures. They say parents need to monitor their kids using the Internet on any device, and warn them this type of crime can cause permanent damage.

"Their faces and their bodies are going to be displayed on the Internet and that's there forever," Capozzi said. "It never comes out."

Federal prosecutors say when agents initially contacted Caputo, he tried to blame someone else using his family's WiFi. But they say he kept contacting victims even after that first encounter, before his arrest.

A judge still decided on Monday to let him go home with his mother on Friday. Prosecutors appealed that decision late Monday afternoon.


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