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'Sextortion' of underage girls gets Lancaster man 15-year sentence

A man who hid behind messaging apps and meeting sites to prey on underage girls is going to prison for 15 years.

Described by prosecutors as a "phantom" predator, Joseph Lombardo, 25, of Lancaster, admitted going on Kik and meetme.com to identify and attract his victims.

He also hid behind the online alias "Chris Richardson.”

Lombardo's sentence by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo followed the appearance Tuesday of one of his three victims. She talked about his impact on her life and how now, years later, she no longer views herself as a victim.

As part of a plea deal, Lombardo admitted using messaging apps and websites, many of them popular with teens, to victimize the three girls over a two-year period ending in 2014.

The girls, at Lombardo's urging, sent him sexually explicit photos of themselves. Two of them, ages 15 and 16, also had sex with him.

The FBI says Lombardo's "sextortion" case - he pleaded guilty to three child pornography charges - is the latest reminder of the risks facing teens who use social media and smartphones.

Kik, a messaging app popular with teens, has emerged in recent years as a forum for sexual predators looking to meet and "groom" potential victims.

In Lombardo's case, it was Kik and meetme.com that connected him with his three victims, including the youngest, a 13-year-old from Niagara County. The other girls are from Erie and Wyoming counties.

Proscutors say the investigation began in the spring of 2014 when a then-15-year-old girl complained to Lancaster police that three or four years earlier she had met on social media a man who coerced her into sending him “at least” 50 naked pictures of herself.

She also claimed the man demanded more pictures and warned that if she did not cooperate he would post her photos online.

The FBI says cyberpredators like messaging applications because they provide anonymity and allow searches by age. The apps also let users send photos that aren’t stored on phones, and they're often password-protected, which can frustrate parents trying to monitor their children.

Lombardo's conviction is the result of an investigation by the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force and a prosecution by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango.

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