A British academic who went by the online aliases of “evilmind” and “666devil” was sentenced to 32 years in prison Monday for posing as a depressed female artist to coerce people as young as teens to send him naked and partially-clothed images of themselves.
Matthew Falder, a 29-year-old geophysicist at Birmingham University, found his victims on advertising websites and then blackmailed them into sending him even more humiliating photos by threatening to deliver the original racy snaps to their family, friends and employers, Reuters reported.
“The effects on the girls, women and men were devastating. The damage is ongoing for these individuals,” Judge Philip Parker said during sentencing at Birmingham Crown Court. “It will never end. Time and again people begged you to stop. Time and again you ramped up the pressure.”
Using 70 different aliases, Falder would distribute the images on hidden Internet forums devoted to talk on rape, murder, pedophilia, degradation and other grisly subjects, according to Reuters.
Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said Falder came into contact with more than 300 people across the world. Forty-five victims were represented in the 137 offenses he pleaded guilty to in October, including encouraging the rape of a 4-year-old, voyeurism and making indecent images of children.
The victims ranged in age from young teenagers to people in their 30s, and three tried to commit suicide after becoming swept up in the blackmail scheme, Reuters reported.
"He is a very nasty and savage individual,” Mike Hames, former head of Scotland Yard's Pedophile Squad, was quoted by Sky News as saying last year. “Although his crimes were non-contact, they are very similar to hands-on abuse, by inducing his victims, by whatever means, into doing things they wouldn't normally do.
Falder also stashed hidden cameras in bathrooms to record women and girls naked. He even set up a camera in the home of his parents, according to the Associated Press.
“Matthew Falder thought he wouldn’t be caught,” Matthew Long, operations strategic lead for the NCA, told the news agency. “He would stop at nothing to exploit (the victims), to make them feel sad, humiliated and unhappy. Ultimately that has devastated some people’s lives.”
In an online post titled "100 things we want to see at least once," he listed "a young girl being used as a dartboard," and the production of a video depicting a child's bones being "slowly and deliberately broken."
At one point, some 100 investigators were involved in the effort to track down Falder, a graduate of Cambridge University, who also was in a relationship.
He had an account on the Hurt 2 The Core network, an encrypted site on the dark web taken down by the FBI, which alerted British police.
The NCA said it had little to go on save the online alias "inthegarden."
"I had no scene, the internet is a virtual scene. I had no forensics whatsoever, nothing, no trace whatsoever and no witnesses." Matt Sutton, a NCA senior investigating officer, told the Associated Press. "I basically had a needle in a haystack — there are 32 million U.K. males over the age of 18 so I had to reduce that down to one."
There was no money trail to follow, either, as Falder sought status among others with similar proclivities, not cash.
"He was not about money, his currency was his kudos in the community, his standing in this world, and he traded in these type of images and this type of control," Sutton said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.