On April 23, 2021, federal investigators arrested and arraigned Gary Leach, 23, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, for allegedly cyberstalking and extorting a Massachusetts woman between October 2019 until April 2021.
Until investigators arrested him, Leach allegedly obtained sexually explicit videos and photographs from the victim during the eighteen months.
Prosecutors reported that the accused initially had a video call with the victim under false promises of payment. As the victim performed sexual acts during the call, Leach surreptitiously recorded the victim. According to the report, there had been other video calls of sexual nature where the accused allegedly recorded the victim.
When the victim stopped the virtual arrangement, Leach threatened to share the recordings with the victim’s family unless she sent content of a sexual nature over Instagram.
Despondent and left without options, the victim yielded to Leach’s demands, who continued to parasitize on her fears until investigators arrested him in April. Leach repeatedly harassed and extorted the victim for other virtual interactions, all of which were sexually explicit and degrading.
In attempts to cover his tracks, Leach used anonymous Instagram accounts to contact and harass the victim. The social media accounts were mostly variations of nicknames for the victim and usernames the victim could allude to him. Some of these included “u.kno_who,” “antonio.af.94,” “christhecool777,” and “johnnsy_bravo777.”
Over the year and a half of communication, Leach allegedly became bolder in his demands and often tried to make his victim feel hopeless in the situation. He allegedly alluded that he had other victims on Instagram. In one message, Leach said, “Sweetheart [sic] I have hundreds of vids and thousands of pictures meticulously categorized by name.”
Investigators reported that Leach indicated that some of these women did not know that he had recorded them. Individuals who believe they may have been a victim, in this particular case, may visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/victim-and-witness-assistance-program/us-v-gary-leach to help build a case against Leach.
If convicted of electronic stalking, Leach faces five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and up to $250,000 in fines. If convicted of interstate stalking and extortion by threat of injury to reputation, Leach will spend two years in prison, serve one year of probation, and pay up to $250,000 in fines. The sentences vary with the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Interstate stalking is a federal felony and contravenes the Violence Against Women Act. Georgia recently passed a law to further uphold the tenets of VAWA. Effective July 1, 2021, victims of stalking may terminate their residential leases without sanctions from their landlords per SB75.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice provides guidelines to help victims deal with stalking in all its forms – physical and cyberstalking. The Federal Bureau of Investigation handles interstate stalking, and victims may call (404) 679-9000 for assistance.
Persons arrested and indicted of stalking must immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer for legal aid. Prison time, fines, and probation are the least of an accused’s worries. Stalking of a sexual nature is a serious crime. The court may order an offender to register as a sex offender for ten (years) and up to a lifetime, depending on aggravating circumstances.