Police have arrested a man who they believe used social media to lure underage kids and teens into providing lewd photos of themselves, according to the Huntington Beach Police Department.
Eighteen-year-old Jackson Westermeyer was arraigned Thursday and charged with 12 counts, including arranging to meet with a minor for sexual purposes and extortion. He is being held on $250,000 bail.
Westermeyer admitted to police that he solicited and exchanged lewd photographs, after investigators were tipped off in December that someone was using the Kik Messenger application to request photos from underage subjects, according to a press release from Huntington Beach Police.
Westermeyer also admitted to arranging a meeting with one of the victims, though the meeting never happened. There were no physical acts between Westermeyer and any of the victims, according to police.
Police have identified 10 victims so far, who range in age from 11 to 15, and who are mostly from the Huntington Beach area. Police say that they are looking for between 50 and 100 more victims.
Investigations revealed over 1,700 different conversations stored in the Kik Messenger application on Westermeyer’s phone, and are still looking through 90,000 messages and images.
Police believe the suspect used other social media platforms, such as Kik, Oovo, Instagram, Facebook, and Skype, to contact the minors.
Jackson’s username was KatKat7777, and he oftentimes identified himself as a female using the alias "Jesse." He allegedly showed boys photos of nude girls he falsified as himself, according to police.
"The suspect would then bully, intimidate, threaten, or even try to bribe, the victims into providing more pictures, performing sex acts, or arriving at a median location," Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy said.
Threats included outing the victims as "gay" if they refused to comply, according to an NBC4 report.
Victims would continue to send more photos, fearing that Westermeyer would tag their photos and make them public on other sites, according to police.
The extortion went on for a year while Westermeyer was a senior at Marina High School. Westermeyer had been described by sports writers as a standout pitcher. He had recently enrolled at Santa Ana College, hoping to play baseball there.
Westermeyer’s attorney is working to have his client released.
"He’s obviously not been any trouble whatsoever, and he’s had a tremendous baseball career at Marina High School, so he’s a really innocent person," his attorney Scott Well said.
Investigators are looking for additional victims and are asking anyone who has had contact with the suspect or with anyone on social media using the screen name KATKAT7777 or using the alias "Jesse" to contact the Huntington Beach Police Department.