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Unsealed warrants show sexual extortion cases involving Penn State athletes

WJAC Johnstown logo WJAC Johnstown 7/19/2022 WJAC staff
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Search warrants unsealed Friday in Centre County court reveal an investigation of sexual extortion that involved two unnamed Penn State students identified as student athletes.

Among evidence revealed in the warrants, Penn State University Police obtained videos and pictures, including 19 videos “taken from within the Penn State Football locker room, depicting athletes in various stages of undress.”

Penn State police were made aware of the alleged extortion case involving two students, who they identified as Victim 1 and Victim 2 in the warrants, on September 26th last year. According to the warrant, the male Penn State student, Victim 2 told the investigator that earlier in the month, he met a person he believed to be a woman on a dating app. Later, it said the woman was referred to as “Li” in communications with Victim 2.

The warrant said Li convinced Victim 2 to share sexually explicit photos of himself with her. It said Li demanded more photos and videos from Victim 2 or else Li would release his pictures on various media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. One of Li’s threats, according to the warrant, included posting Victim 2’s pictures on Penn State Football Head Coach James Franklin’s Twitter account.

Victim 2 told the investigator that Li started making more requests of sexually explicit material according to the warrant. It said Victim 2 believed other student athletes at University Park were victims of Li. It continues that Victim 2 was added to a Snapchat group by Li that allegedly included those other student athletes.

The warrant said Li told the other victims to give him advice, and they responded by telling Victim 2 to “do what she said. That it would be bad.” Victim 2 told police he didn’t feel he had another choice but to do what Li said.

According to the document, that’s when Victim 2 provided Li with videos of a group sexual act and recorded videos from within the Penn State Football team locker room depicting other athletes in stages of undress.

It was in late September, the warrant said, that Victim 2 says he realized Li wouldn’t stop and blocked her account and ignored her messages. He said Li then took his pictures and videos and began posting them on an Instagram account. It’s at that time, Victim 2 said he notified the Athletic Department and they assisted him with “taking down” multiple iterations of the Instagram account.

One of the variations of the Instagram account included a Dropbox folder that contained 33 videos and one image, the warrant said.

RELATED | Warrants seek assistance from social media companies in sexual extortion case

Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna told 6 News reporter Gary Sinderson there was a federal investigation into this case.  He said there is no longer a state investigation.  

Cantorna said the matter was closed by his office last month.  No charges were filed partially due to victims no longer wanting to purse the matter.

Penn State had originally requested to have these search warrants sealed, but Cantorna filed to have them opened.   On Wednesday, WJAC along with other media outlets, including the Centre Daily Times, filed motions to intervene and request the warrants be unsealed.

RELATED | Judge grants motion to unseal Penn State police search warrants

“The release of records may place some individuals in an embarrassing or humiliating position," Cantorna said.  "But that does not trump the need for public access to the judicial records."

Penn State released a statement Friday afternoon that said, "University Police and Public Safety were alerted to a sexual extortion crime targeting Penn State student athletes in September 2021, and have been investigating the matter since then, using forensics in an attempt to identify both victims and suspects. In this case, individuals were drawn into an online conversation that escalated into extortion.

Sexual extortion crimes in which individuals are coerced into sharing intimate images or videos are a national issue and similar incidents have victimized people in other places in the U.S. Police ask that media and others refrain from speculating about individuals who were targeted in these crimes."

Unsealed warrants show sexual extortion cases involving Penn State athletes
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