The Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) has made a major breakthrough in a highly publicised cyber crime, involving the unauthorised posting of nude photographs of hundreds of women on a local website.
The police, on Monday (August 27), arrested and charged a 27-year-old man, who it is believed to be at the centre of the crime. He has been identified as Ronald Oates of a Kingston address and has since been slapped with several charges under the Cyber Crime Act and the Larceny Act.
Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Dwight Daley, told journalists during a press briefing this morning (August 31) at the division’s downtown Kingston offices that
Mr. Oates has been charged with unauthorised access, unauthorised obstruction, unlawfully making available data for the commission of an offence, and obscene publication, all under the Cyber Crime Act as well as extortion and conspiracy to extort, under the Larceny Act.
Mr. Oates is set to appear in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate Court on Wednesday, September 5.
The crime, which was first brought to the attention of the police in early March this year, is said to involve some 25 victims. However, Acting Head, OCID and Head of the Fraud Squad, Acting Senior Superintendent (SSP) Clifford Chambers informed that “hundreds of victims” have been affected based on the revelations of further investigations.
SSP Chambers said he expects more persons to come forward over the course of the next coming weeks or months.
“The nature of an offence like this gives one the view that because of fear or intimidation, persons may choose not to come forward, but this doesn’t mean that we will not be getting more complaints. Based on the analysis of a lot of the items that were found, there are far more persons, who have been affected than the complaints that were received,” he informed.
It is alleged that Mr. Oates would hack into the email accounts of his victims, gaining access to their nude photographs. He would then contact the women threatening to upload the photographs to a local website, if he is not paid a certain sum of money, or he would upload the photos and then demand money for them to be removed from the website.
The website, www.jamaicangirlsexposed.blogspot.com, has since been removed.
According to the police, he often demanded between $10,000 and $20,000 from his victims, which has amounted to some $150,000 in total. Police say those targeted were mainly from Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Catherine, but the crime also stretched as far as Manchester.
DSP Daley said an intense investigation and surveillance, involving the “hardworking” OCID team with assistance from the Mobile Reserve led to the location and eventual arrest of the suspect.
“There was a lot of surveillance, intelligence gathering and extensive investigations and we made our move on Monday of this week,” he informed. He said the investigations were carried out over a period of six months, with the first report received in March and the last on August 18.
Several items of interest were taken from the premises of Mr. Oates. These include computers, cell phones, wireless modem, thumb drives, and telephone SIM cards. “All these were critical to the ensuing investigation,” DSP Daley remarked.
“These items were forensically examined and a wide array of photographs and pornographic videos were seen, some of which are related to the complaints we received, he added.
Meanwhile, the police are urging Jamaicans to be vigilant and careful when posting information on the internet, especially to social networks.
Tips for cyber safety include:
· Always password protect your computers – private or public, wired or wireless.
· Always use an alphanumeric password format
· Never store passwords carelessly
· Always ensure system firewalls are active to unauthorised system access
· Avoid placing too much personal information on social networks
· Avoid uploading pornographic material to the web