Two Moncton-area men now face a combined 21 charges in connection with accusations they sexually exploited people online and threatened them into paying thousands of dollars.
Jean-Michel Gouin and Ketiboua Kesse both appeared in Moncton provincial court on Tuesday, each scheduled for a plea on a charge of possession of stolen property obtained by crime.
But Crown prosecutor Guillaume Rigucci told Judge Yvette Finn that the two initial charges would be withdrawn and 21 new charges would be laid.
Gouin, 28, and Kesse, 27, are now accused of extortion, fraud, money laundering, trafficking funds obtained by crime, and possession of property obtained by crime.
Jean-Michel Gouin, 28, leaves Moncton provincial court on Tuesday. He faces 21 charges tied to the alleged defrauding and extortion of Quebec residents. (Pascal Raiche-Nogue/Radio-Canada)
Gouin is accused on his own of 19 charges tied to forcing a dozen people to pay them amounts that at times exceeded $5,000, in a series of incidents between May 1, 2022, and April 10, 2023.
The alleged victims include nine men and three women, three of whom were defrauded and threatened into paying more than $5,000.
Gouin also faces a charge of breaching conditions of release by failing to notify a peace officer of a change in address, employment or occupation.
The pair are jointly charged with possession of property obtained by a crime and money laundering.
Trying to set up 'network,' police say
RCMP arrested Gouin and Kesse in the Moncton area on March 2, 2023, after receiving a tip from a police force in Quebec.
The Roussillon intermunicipal police told CBC News at the time that the department received a sextoration complaint from a man in his 20s. The man told people he had to send $1,000 by bank transfer to someone so that his intimate images would not be published.
Codiac RCMP said the investigation led police to locate three people in Moncton, allegedly operating as part of an organized network. Search warrants were executed in Moncton and Dieppe, where electronic devices were seized.
RCMP alleged the three people arrested were setting up a "network" aimed at sexually extorting youth in New Brunswick. The third person has not been charged.
The alleged victims included nine men and three women, three of whom, police said, were defrauded and threatened into paying more than $5,000.
In November, police said in a new release that all of the alleged victims identified were from Quebec. No new information about where victims live was released on Tuesday.
After the charges were laid, defence lawyers requested more time to review disclosure. Finn granted an adjournment.
The two men will return to court on March 27 for pleas and to elect how they want to be tried.
The charges come as police in New Brunswick are reporting a rise in online sextortion scams. Sextortion involves online threats to publish or share sexual images of a person unless a ransom is paid.
New Brunswick RCMP have received 66 sextortion reports since 2023, including 43 reported in January, according to a news release.