Police: 19-year-old Utah man charged with ‘sextortion’ of minors after return from mission

Gabe Ryan Gilbert. Photo: Salt Lake County

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 2, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A $500,000 arrest warrant was issued for a 19-year-old South Jordan man accused of aggravated sexual extortion of multiple minors.

A probable cause statement from the 3rd District Court of Salt Lake City said Gabe Ryan Gilbert is charged with five counts of aggravated sexual extortion of a child, a first-degree felony; and four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.

And officials say there is evidence of dozens more victims.

The investigation began in August 2018 when agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children task force began an investigation into a Snapchat account based on a report that a user had been sexually extorting minors online. Snapchat user E.F. reported that another user, using the name “Ethan Parker,” who was later identified as Gabe Gilbert, had threatened to Photoshop images of her face onto nude photos and send them out unless she sent real nude pictures of herself.

At one point, he said she had one minute “to send a bra pic” or he would expose her, then said she had one minute to send a “nude boobs pic.” He then sent E.F. a regular photo and a video of herself from her account and again told her he would Photoshop them.

Following this interaction, E.F. reported the activity to Snapchat who reported the user ‘Ethan’ to the Utah ICAC Task Force. E.F. was identified as being 15 at the time of the chats. A signed search warrant was obtained and served on the Snapchat account “Ethan.”

“When I examined the results of the search warrant from Snapchat it was obvious the user had been engaging in very similar behavior with other underage girls,” wrote the Utah ICAC officer, who is also a Special Agent with the Utah Attorney General’s Office. “I identified well over 50 potential victims of this type of sexual extortion.”

The search warrant results identified the IP address used during the creation of the Snapchat account, the statement said, and the primary IP address used multiple times to access Snapchat during chats in which the user was sexually extorting children.

An investigation identified the IP address as a residence in South Jordan. A second IP address was also identified during chat logs on four specific days, three of which were holidays: Christmas 2017, New Years Day, 2018 and July Fourth, 2018. This IP address was geo-located in southern Idaho near the Cache Valley area.

In March, contact was made with residents of the address in South Jordan — a husband and wife lived there with their 18-year-old son, Gabe Gilbert, and their younger son and daughter.

The mother stated her son Gabe Gilbert no longer resided at the home, but was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico, and had left in October of 2018, two months after the user “Ethan” had threatened E.F.

The mother also confirmed that her family had gone to her parents, who live in Cache Valley, for Christmas 2017, New Years 2018 and July Fourth 2018. The dates of those visits match the dates of the alternate IP address logged during the chats.

Special agents asked Gilbert’s mother to have him contact them from his mission and left their contact information.

The statement then said that on April 3, special agents were contacted by an attorney for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He stated the same day the agents spoke with the mother about this case, on March 27, the mother contacted the mission president and explained the agents had asked to speak with Gilbert. The mission president called Gilbert in and interviewed him. What Gilbert said was not disclosed, but he was immediately sent home.

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The next day, the special agent contacted the mother to ask where Gilbert was now he was home from his mission and the mother refused to answer, stating she had spoken with an attorney and would not speak with the special agent or disclose where to find her son. I explained she could not conceal Gilbert’s location, but she still refused to answer.

Later that same day, two special agents went to the parent’s home to try and locate Gilbert. The mother again said she wouldn’t speak to them without a lawyer. The agents clarified they actually wanted to speak to Gilbert, not her.

“I told her Gilbert was an adult and was free to decline to speak with me, but she cannot hide him,” the statement said. After asking one more time, one of the agents called into the house for Gilbert, telling him she knew he was home and needed to speak to him, not his mother. The agent then gave the mother her business card with a note for Gilbert to call her.

During the investigation that began in August of 2018, the agent identified several victims of sexual extortion by the user “Ethan.” After making contact with these victims, the agent showed them pictures of Gabe Gilbert and they identified Gilbert from pictures the user “Ethan” had sent during chats.

“Having positively identified Gilbert as the suspect in the sexual extortion chats, I began to review the chat logs and victim information to identify the dates and times Gilbert had made these threats,” the statement said. “I confirmed that any chats after April 25, 2018 would have been after Gilbert turned 18.”

The agent wrote that she communicated with girls as young as 15 who Gilbert said he was in long-distance relationships with when he was 17, the statement said. During the course of the relationships they would chat online and exchange pictures through Snapchat.

The victims then said Gilbert became more persistent in requesting nude images. When the victims expressed reluctance, Gilbert threatened to expose them and distribute the images the girls had already sent him unless they sent him more photos. He subsequently threatened a Snapchat user that he would ruin her life by exposing her nude photos. He continued to repeat these threats while telling the user to record nude videos of herself and send them to him. The Snapchat user eventually conceded and sent two videos to Gilbert. She was was between 14 and 16 years old.

Gilbert also continued to threaten to Photoshop underage girls images onto nude photos if she didn’t send him real nude images.

“His messages included threats to send rapists and human traffickers to her house,” the statement said. Chat logs showed the following messages sent by Gilbert: “I hope your house has good security…. I’m sending out your location and username… to as many creeps on the web as I can find.” Gilbert then sent four screenshots of the girl in question’s exact location, down to an image of her house. He made similar threats to two other victims also, the statement says.

A final conversation on August 8, 2018, with a 15-year-old girl was reported by the girl to the Utah ICAC task force, which was when the investigation began.

Authorities ultimately issued a warrant for Gilbert’s arrest and he was booked into jail on a $500,000 bond.

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