St. Paul man sentenced to 43 years in prison for online sextortion scheme targeting more than 1,100 girls
Vang created fake online accounts that he used to portray himself as a minor and entice or coerce girls to create sexually explicit images and videos to send to him from at least early 2015 through
ST. PAUL -- One of Yue Vang’s victims said she struggled with substance abuse and wanted to commit suicide because of what he did to her. Another said she was an honor student with a bright future who turned to cutting herself to “escape the pain” he inflicted.
The victim impact statements were read Wednesday in federal court before Vang, of St. Paul, was sentenced to 43 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised probation, for carrying out what prosecutors say is the largest known online sexual extortion scheme ever in the U.S.
After handing down the sentence at the St. Paul federal courthouse, U.S. District Judge Eric Tostrud noted how prosecutors have identified more than 800 girls who Vang victimized in all 50 states and 42 other counties.
“We understand today that the government is aware of over 1,100 minors, and that this is the largest known sextortion prosecution in United States history,” Tostrud said.
Vang, 31, was charged in May with two counts of production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography, and one count of interstate communications with intent to extort.
Vang created fake online accounts that he used to portray himself as a minor and entice or coerce girls to create sexually explicit images and videos to send to him from at least early 2015 through September 2020, prosecutors say. He used web and social media apps including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik and Skype to perpetuate his sextortion scheme.
He was charged by felony information, a process by which a defendant agrees to waive a grand jury indictment and instead plead guilty. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed not to charge him with additional counts he pleaded to and also with transportation, receipt and distribution of child pornography.
‘Calculated and cruel’
Vang collected more than 1,000 child pornography images and videos on his electronic devices that showed minors between approximately 12 and 17 years old engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He would threaten to send the images to their family members, friends and classmates unless they created and sent him additional images and videos of themselves nude or engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
Vang knew the girls were under 16 years of age because their ages were posted in profiles or they told him, according to his plea agreement.
Tostrud said Vang’s “conduct was calculated and ineffably cruel” and that he took advantage of the girls’ “greatest vulnerabilities.”
“Mr. Vang’s conduct caused unbounded and everlasting harm,” Tostrud said. “We have heard that harm described in the victim impact statements today. Those statements are powerful evidence of the harm suffered by Mr. Vang’s hundreds of victims.”
Before receiving his sentence, Vang apologized to his victims in a brief statement he read to the court.
“I recognize that by saying I am deeply sorry will never be enough to address the trauma and the pain that I have caused,” he said. “There are no words or actions that can express how deeply sorry I am.”
Tip from Ohio
Authorities were alerted to Vang when a victim contacted her local police department in Ohio and that department, through their investigative process, identified the suspect as possibly living in Minnesota, according to the FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.
Police shared the information with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which sent a tip to the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The FBI investigation began in 2020.
“There are few crimes as damaging and traumatic to a young person as sextortion,” Michael Paul, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis FBI field office, said in a statement following Vang’s sentencing. “Vang is a predator who targeted innocent and impressionable young girls, exploiting their innocence for pictures and videos. He robbed them of their childhood and forever altered their lives and the lives of their families.”
The FBI says it is seeing a significant increase in cases involving sextortion, with more than 16,000 such complaints having been reported to the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center during the first seven months of last year. Nearly half of the sextortion victims were in the 20- to 39-age group, while victims under the age of 20 reported the fewest number of complaints, according to the FBI.
This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.