Jonathan Kassi Arrested in ‘Sextortion’ Scam That Led to Teen’s Suicide, Police Say

A 25-year-old involved in a West African “financial sextortion” scheme was arrested last week in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, according to local authorities.

Jonathan Kassi allegedly used online monikers, including “emillysmith” and “kassijonathan,” across a number of platforms to extort money out of children after convincing them to share sensitive and revealing photographs of themselves.

He is charged with extortion and attempted disorderly conduct for “posting of a photograph or recording without consent,” according to San Jose police.

Kassi is believed to be the individual behind the suicide death of 17-year-old Ryan Last earlier this year.

“Somebody reached out to him pretending to be a girl, and they started a conversation,” said Pauline Stuart, Last’s mother, in an interview with CNN in May.

While posing as a girl, Kassi allegedly shared nude photos, encouraging Last to send back racy photos of his own. When the minor complied, Kassi asked for $5,000, threatening to share the nude picture with Last’s friends and family if he didn’t fork over the cash, according to the report.

The teen eventually paid a $150 sum out of his college savings fund. But the extortion didn’t end there. The online persona continued to demand “more and more,” according to Stuart.

“He really, truly thought in that time that there wasn’t a way to get by if those pictures were actually posted online,” Stuart told the outlet. “His note showed he was absolutely terrified. No child should have to be that scared.”

In 2021, the Internet Crime Complaint Center received over 18,000 sextortion reports from across the country, involving financial losses of more than $13.6 million, according to the FBI. The crimes largely target young boys, some as young as 10, and have led to more than a dozen suicides, according to a Justice Department alert.

“I am truly disgusted that there are people that can do this to kids, but I am also grateful for all the work that law enforcement has done on this case,” Stuart told CNN on Monday.

Federal authorities have cited a recent “explosion” in child sextortion cases in the last year, calling the climbing numbers a “horrific increase.” Reports of the crime in the first half of 2022 were 1,000 percent higher than the same period the year before, according to the FBI.

“Victims may feel like there is no way out,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “It is up to all of us to reassure them that they are not in trouble, there is hope, and they are not alone.”

On Dec. 15, Kassi was transferred from the Los Angeles Police Department to the Santa Clara County Main Jail. He is currently held on $250,000 bail.

“Detectives believe there could be additional victims due to the suspect’s criminal pattern and use of social media to target minors,” San Jose Police wrote in a statement.

The FBI urges parents and victims to reach out to the agency if they suspect illicit contact, either by calling the bureau’s tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or by filing an online tip at

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