An Illinois man was arrested on Tuesday after he met two teenage boys from Belchertown in an Xbox Live chatroom and allegedly convinced them to send him naked pictures of themselves back in 2010.
Zack Sawyer, who is also known as Joshua Nield, 29, of Georgetown, IL, has been indicted on three counts of posing a child in the nude and two counts of extortion. He was arrested in connection with incidents involving two 13-year-old boys from Belchertown in 2010, according to Mary Carey, communications director for the Northwestern District Attorney's office.
Sawyer was a professional cross-country truck driver who would victimize young children from across the nation, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
He also had similar charges filed against him in Virginia.
Utilizing a headset system that online game players use to speak with each other over the internet, Sawyer identified himself to the boys using his full name. He also said he was 24 years old and lived in Illinois.
“The Northwestern District Attorney's Office warns parents and young people that a number of cases come to the attention of the office each year in which online gaming is used by criminals to target young people,” Carey said. “Parents should make a point of being aware of who their child's 'friends' are online as well as in person.”
Sawyer learned the ages of the boys during their conversation and later claimed to know identifying information about the boys that they had not shared with him. Sawyer then allegedly made sexually explicit threats to the boys, according to Carey.
“Young people should be alert to the fact that a person may not be who he represents himself to be online and limit online gaming to people they know in person, such as relatives, classmates, and teammates,” Carey said.
As a result of collaboration between Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney's Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security, and several local police departments around the country, Sawyer was apprehended in Georgetown, IL on Tuesday.
Following an investigation by Belchertown and state police, Illinois State Police located and interviewed Sawyer in April 2011. Sawyer is alleged to have had conversations with somewhere between 800 and 3,000 online “acquaintances,” Carey said.
“Parents should become familiar with, and enable, parental controls,” Carey said. “Experts recommend that games with online connections be kept in a central location of the house where parents can monitor use.”
A Hampshire Superior Court indicted Sawyer in July 2014 and the Northwestern District Attorney's Office sought a warrant for his arrest on the same day.
As information had developed that Sawyer was moving about the country, Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Thomas Bakey contacted the U.S. Marshal's Service for assistance in locating and apprehending him.
“This case was particularly troubling because Sawyer was very mobile, traveling through many states. Because of our close collaboration with the state police and U.S. Marshals in Illinois, we were able to prevent any further victimization of young children,” U.S. Marshal John Gibbons said.
The Northwestern District Attorney's Office is waiting to learn whether Sawyer will waive or contest rendition. He eventually will be arraigned in Hampshire Superior Court, Carey said.
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