B.C. sextortion case mirrors global trend: research institute

Snapchat and Instagram have been referenced in 80% of Canadian sextortion complaints in the last year. (Reuters - image credit)
Snapchat and Instagram have been referenced in 80% of Canadian sextortion complaints in the last year. (Reuters - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details about suicide and sexual extortion. 

A computer screen and nearly 10,000 kilometres stood between Jordan Demay and the two Nigerian brothers accused of hounding the Michigan teen to suicide in March 2022.

Demay's mother believes Samson and Samuel Ogoshi probably never expected they'd have to one day look her in the eye. Nor was she prepared to see them in the flesh as they stood in a courtroom, extradited to the U.S. from Lagos last year to face trial in Jordan's death.

"It was very difficult to see them and know that they were the last people to see and speak to my son, and think about how could they do this to my sweet baby boy without any regard to his life," said Jennifer Buta.

Douglas Chandler
Douglas Chandler

"The thing about this activity is I'm sure the people on the other side think, 'I'll never get caught.' Especially in another country. And Jordan's case changes that. It's one of a kind, and I hope it sends a message that you can be caught. It doesn't matter where you are or who you are, you can be tracked down and caught."

'The Yahoo Boys'

Buta was saddened this week to learn of the suicide of a 14-year-old in Surrey, B.C., last year in circumstances almost identical to her son's death.

RCMP held a news conference Tuesday to announce charges against 26-year-old Adedayo Olukeye, who is now awaiting trial in Nigeria in the Canadian case.

According to police, both teens were targeted online by scammers pretending to be attractive women in order to extract compromising images they then used to blackmail victims.

There's no suggestion Olukeye and the Ogoshis knew each other — or that they worked directly with Olamide Oladosu Shanu, another Nigerian charged in Idaho last year with masterminding a sextortion ring that has raked in more than $2.5 million from victims across the U.S.

Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

But if the facts in all three cases are similar, sextortion experts say it's no coincidence: the perpetrators are literally working from the same playbook, the details of which are posted in elaborately worded scripts online.

"[The B.C. case] is not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination but a part of a global trend that preys on vulnerable minors in the United States, Australia, the U.K. and Canada," said Alex Goldenberg, director of research for the U.S.-based Network Contagion Research Institute.

"A majority of these criminal activities involving financial sextortion are connected to this loosely organized cybercriminal network who call themselves the Yahoo Boys."

'An unknown classmate'

Last month, Goldenberg's organization published a stunning threat intelligence report on the role of the so-called Yahoo Boys in what they term a "digital pandemic" of sextortion incidents said to have risen 1,000 per cent in the past 18 months.

The group takes its name from Yahoo.com emails used by a first generation of Nigerian online scammers posing as desperate princes angling for help to move money. Goldenberg says today's Yahoo Boys are adept in the use of generative artificial intelligence.

"We're seeing AI used to automate cat-phishing operations at scale," he said.

"AI is being used to create convincing deep fakes. Voice cloning — these crimes are not just occurring using chat functions, but phone calls as well. So they're providing proof of life by using AI and canned social engineering tactics."

The Network Contagion Research Institute report says sextortion guides for TikTok and YouTube give "instructions to create convincing fake social media profiles and how to 'bomb' high schools and sports teams (by) friending/following as many people in a school or target location as possible."

"In many cases of sextortion, the victim believes the individual is potentially an unknown classmate or someone of the same age from a neighbouring town," the report says.

Scammers find victims on platforms like Instagram or Wizz, described as a kind of Tinder for teens. But Goldenberg says they quickly try to move the conversation to SnapChat, where victims may believe their conversations will disappear within a day.

Court documents included texts from teen's final hours

U.S. court documents detail allegations against 32-year-old Shanu and four unidentified co-conspirators accused of targeting males throughout the United States.

After sextorting young boys and men, police claim Shanu and his associates demanded direct payments to a bank account using bitcoin, using other victims as "money mules" to receive and transfer funds and gift cards as a way of laundering money.

An indictment against the Ogoshi brothers says they allegedly used an Instagram account belonging to "dani.robertts" to communicate with Jordan Demay.

The court documents include verbatim messages exchanged in the final hours of Jordan's life, as Samuel Ogoshi allegedly pressed the teen for $1,000 and berated him for only sending $300.

a. dani.robertts: "Goodbye"

b. dani.robertts: "Enjoy your miserable life"

c. Victim 1: "I'm kms rn" ["I'm kill myself right now"]

d. Victim 1: "Bc of you" ["Because of you"]

e. dani.robertts: "Good"

f. dani.robertts: "Do that fast"

'This is a business to them'

According to Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Adelayo Okuleye was arrested last September in relation to the B.C. sextortion and suicide. He has pleaded not guilty.

The RCMP gave little information about the suspect's personal details.

Court documents filed in the U.S. on the other hand reveal that the Ogoshi brothers are students who had never left Nigeria before being extradited to Michigan.

Samuel Ogoshi is 22; Samson Ogoshi is 20. Their father is a retired member of the Nigerian military and their mother sells soft drinks in their apartment complex.

"Samson grew up going to church and was involved in the children's choir and bible studies," says one motion.

"Samson spent time regularly with his family and enjoyed playing football with the other kids in the neighborhood. Samson is a dutiful son who participates in house chores."

Goldenberg says an online culture, replete with music videos and bragging celebrations of success, exists to glorify the Yahoo Boys.

He says it's hard to glean much insight from court documents and online data into the psychology of the accused and their appreciation of the emotional havoc wrought on the young victims at the receiving end of their deception.

"What I thought was interesting was this is a business to them," he said.

"They're not referring to their targets as victims or even targets, they refer to them as clients. And they have a rolodex of clients that they continue to sextort and sextort and sextort. It's a business, which is extremely disturbing."

Buta says she can't peer into the hearts of the two young men accused of driving her son to suicide, but she has her suspicions.

Jennifer Buta
Jennifer Buta

"Before they were arrested, one of them knew what happened to Jordan, and in fact Googled to find out what happened to him, and at that point stopped participating in this activity for a period of time. So I think they realized at that moment ... and stopped," she said.

"But they did at some point resume that activity."

If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:

This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.