A man from Mascoutah who told authorities he had nude pictures of roughly 100 women and girls that he’d obtained via blackmail, payments, trade or threats was sentenced Thursday to 35 years in federal prison.
Joshua P. Breckel, 21, pleaded guilty in federal court in the Southern District of Illinois to charges accusing him of blackmailing women and girls in several states and receiving child pornography and interstate transmission of a threat with the intent of extortion.
Breckel admitted to using online messaging applications and blackmail to obtain sexually explicit images and videos from both adult women and girls as young as 10 throughout the U.S. and other countries from early 2016 until his arrest July 8, 2018, prosecutors said. Prosecutors called him a "prolific sextortionist" in a written release announcing his sentencing.
Breckel also admitted to threatening to kill one girl, a 10-year-old from Ohio, if she didn't send him naked photos of herself, prosecutors said.
He was arrested last year following an investigation launched when a 15-year-old New Jersey girl reported to her mother that she had been threatened online by someone on the messaging application Whisper, prosecutors said. Local authorities were able to track the suspect's screen name and Snapchat account to Breckel's home in Mascoutah.
Court documents say Breckel promised the teen $2,500 for nude photos. When she sent a topless photo, he offered $5,000 if she recruited friends to provide photos or a video. When she refused, he threatened to share the topless photo with her friends on Facebook and elsewhere online, charging documents claim. The girl’s family then contacted police.
After his arrest, Breckel and his attorney spoke with FBI agents. Breckel told the agents he used social media to obtain adult and child pornography from about 100 people, most of them minors, according to court documents.
He persuaded girls to send him nude photos by feigning a romantic interest and offering them money, prosecutors said. Then he would threaten to send the photos to the girls' families, friends and online contacts unless they sent him more photos and videos.
Some girls refused to send Breckel photos; those who did received escalating threats from Breckel until they stopped communicating with him, prosecutors said.
Breckel asked girls who sent him photos to include their faces in the pictures or to hold up three fingers so he could verify that he was not receiving fake images, prosecutors said.
Breckel used the multimedia messaging application Snapchat to obtain photos from most of the girls, prosecutors said. The application deletes photos and videos shortly after they are sent, but Breckel used a recording device to save the images before they disappeared.
He also used Facebook, Instagram, LiveMe and Kik to obtain photos from girls, and traded some of the explicit photos and videos he received with other internet users on Kik.
The mother of one of Breckel's victims testified in court that her daughter battled severe depression, withdrew from her friends and lost interest in her hobbies and school activities, prosecutors said.
Breckel will remain on supervised release for life after completing his prison sentence.