Man who used Snapchat to prey on 10,000 children globally for explicit images pleads guilty to charges

A man who manipulated and blackmailed young girls into sending indecent photos and engaging in sexual activity has pleaded guilty to 50 offences.

Ishmael Duncan, 24, of Walnut Tree Walk, Lambeth, admitted to a variety of charges, including blackmailing a 14-year-old girl with learning difficulties who sent him images, and offering her $1,000 (£804) to engage in a sexual act with her brother.

The case against him comprised of 28 female victims, some as young as nine, from the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

But investigators believe he contacted close to 10,000 children online from social media platform Snapchat, using different accounts.

Duncan would approach potential victims to ask if they were interested in becoming a model for well-known fashion brands.

He then took victims through a lengthy interview process to build their trust, and sent them legitimate looking contracts which featured the impersonated brand’s logo.

He would request topless photos on the pretext of assessing the victims’ body shape, and to use as a base for editing in potential clothes to be modelled. Girls who challenged this were told the original photos would be deleted after editing, with some threatened with being “blacklisted” from modelling if they didn’t comply.

He would send this message to the young girls: “This is an automated message. We have your nudes, and unless you reply to this message saying “I understand,” they will be sent out to expose accounts on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

“If you reply with anything else other than “I understand,” or if you block or unfriend this account, your nudes will be sent out. This is your first and only warning.”

Two sisters in the US reported being threatened after sending explicit images to one of the accounts run by Duncan.

Analysis of internet data relating to the fake Snapchat profiles showed the accounts linked to multiple locations, but the National Crime Agency established that Duncan was linked to all of them.

Duncan was arrested in July 2021 at his home in Lambeth, and a number of devices were seized. Material recovered from these and cloud storage included chat logs from the various Snapchat accounts Duncan used, and indecent images he had extorted from children.

Separate to his modelling approach, he targeted other potential victims claiming to be a child of a similar age, requesting sexual images and videos.

In total, officers recovered 19,120 indecent images of children in categories A-C, A being the most severe, from his devices and cloud storage.

Duncan was charged with 53 counts, including causing or inciting a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity, blackmail, sexual communication with a child, indecent and prohibited images of children and possession of extreme pornographic images.

He appeared at Inner London Crown Court on August 21 this year, where he admitted to 42 of the counts.

Yesterday, he admitted to a further eight counts. Two counts of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity and one count of blackmail will lie on file.

Duncan is due to be sentenced at the same court on December 1.

NCA operations manager Martin Ludlow said: “Ishmael Duncan cruelly preyed on young girls who had dreams of becoming models.

“The threatening messages he sent were chilling and showed his callous disregard for the victims he exploited for his own sexual gratification in this case.

“The NCA worked closely with overseas partners to identify and safeguard victims, a number of whom provided evidence against Duncan.

“We will continue to operate online and internationally to target those offenders who pose the most serious risk to children.”

Pictured top: Ismael Duncan pleaded guilty to 50 offences (Picture: NCA)

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