A middle school teacher in Pennsylvania has been fishing for teenage boys online, including many of his own students, to manipulate them into sending sexually explicit photos, federal officials say.
Andrew Wolf, 42, taught eighth grade math at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, an elite private school in Philadelphia, while secretly targeting teenage boys online, USA Today reported.
Wolf used several fake social media accounts and contacted his victims by posing as teenage girls as part of an “elaborate” catfishing scheme, according to a Feb. 17 release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania .
Wolf was also in close contact with a person he met online, 20-year-old Kray Strange, a resident of Carthage, New York. From May 2020 to October 2021, he shared explicit photos with Strange and personal information about his students so Strange could prey on them, the release said.
Authorities began investigating Wolf after receiving a tip from Dropbox, an online file sharing service, WPVI reported. The tip was sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
At least 12 students from the school were killed, an official told the outlet.
FBI investigators discovered that Wolf had put together a large spreadsheet containing the names and information of 78 of his current, former and prospective students, reported The Philadelphia Enquirer.
In one case, Wolf and Strange tried to pressure a student to go to the school bathroom and record himself masturbating, the paper reported.
When victims began to suspect the Catfish accounts, Wolf suggested blackmailing students and asking them to continue posting more explicit content, the outlet reported.
Wolf and Strange were indicted in February 2022, and Wolf pleaded guilty in June to multiple counts of producing child pornography, according to the release.
“(Wolf) has accepted responsibility for the conduct alleged against him and has apologized to the victims and their loved ones,” Wolf’s attorney said in a statement to WPVI. “He waived all of his constitutional rights at trial, so no testimony would be needed in connection with his indictment of him. The actions he took and the statements he made were sincere efforts to express his remorse for him and mitigate the effect of the post-crime proceedings in the only way he could.
A federal judge sentenced Wolf on Feb. 17 to nearly 39 years in prison and more than $200,000 in fines, the release said.
“Our office and our law enforcement partners are committed to holding sexual predators of children accountable,” US Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said in the statement. “Today’s sentence will never save the victims; however, it should serve as a reminder to all of us that an open line of communication and discussion with our young people about the ever-evolving dangers on the internet is another key component to keeping our young people safe.
Online blackmail and “extortion” are a growing threat, with teenagers and young boys in particular falling victim, according to the FBI. If you or someone you know is being extorted, officials ask you to contact the authorities for help.
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