INDIANAPOLIS – A man was formally charged Tuesday with tricking 10 teenagers in nine different states into performing sex acts on webcam that he recorded and used to coerce them into making more sexually explicit videos.
Federal prosecutors said Richard Finkbiner, 39, told some of his online victims that he intended to amass the largest collection of amateur pornography in the world. U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett called it a "systematic scheme to victimize hundreds of children."
Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute charge Finkbiner with 10 counts of child sexual exploitation, two counts of extortion and one count of possession of child pornography. Hogsett said prosecutors plan to seek an effective life sentence if Finkbiner is convicted.
The victims were nine boys and one girl, all between the ages of 12 and 16, according to the charges. Court documents said Finkbiner coerced children from Indiana, West Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York, Michigan, Illinois and Colorado into making explicit videos for his use.
Federal defender William Marsh, who was appointed to represent Finkbiner, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
Zach Myers, an assistant U.S. attorney who worked on the case, said Finkbiner tricked the teens into performing sex acts on an online video chat by feeding recorded pornographic images through his computer, making them believe they were live images from his webcam.
"Most if not all of the victims really never saw Mr. Finkbiner. They saw an image they believed to be Mr. Finkbiner," Hogsett said during a news conference announcing the new charges.
After recording the initial sexual acts, prosecutors said Finkbiner threatened to upload the images to pornographic websites unless his victims agreed to email him at one of several emails that he used as aliases. When the teens responded, he threatened to expose the chat videos to their family and friends unless they made more explicit videos for his use, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said Finkbiner communicated with his victims by selecting prepared threats and statements from an electronic text document stored on his computer, including one in which he called some of his victims his "cam slave."
Finkbiner also is charged with extortion for allegedly threatening to post online partially nude images of a 14-year-old girl from Minnesota and a 16-year-old girl from Alaska.
Finkbiner has been held without bond since his arrest April 6 at his home in Brazil, Indiana. At that point he faced preliminary charges of sexual exploitation of a child related to videos of a 14-year-old boy in Michigan and another boy in Maryland. Neither of those cases is included in the charges filed Tuesday in Indianapolis, said Tim Horty, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Federal authorities in Detroit filed preliminary charges of production of child pornography and enticement against Finkbiner following his arrest in western Indiana. Horty said the Maryland case was still being investigated.
When investigators first examined Finkbiner's home computer, they found thousands of explicit video files depicting hundreds of minor victims, according to the initial complaint filed in April. Hogsett said Tuesday that he could not say how many of those images translated into victims.
Prosecutors have said the case is an example of "sextortion," a crime in which predators catch victims in embarrassing situations online and threaten to expose them unless they create sexually explicit photos or videos.