A man who posed as a teenage girl on social media apps to gain indecent images from underage boys then blackmailing them has been jailed for 21 years.
Jay Lang, 24, of Canvey Island, Essex, targeted at least 26 victims aged between 11 and 16.
He posed as a 16-year-old girl named Chloe on social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram between April 2018 and November 2021 in order to make contact with similar-aged boys – some of whom were as young as 11.
After revealing himself as a man, he would threaten to publish the images if they did not send him money and demanded £2,000 from one victim. He blackmailed one boy into filming himself performing a sex act with a male friend.
Lang arranged to meet two of them and during those meetings he sexually abused them.
He was sentenced on Friday 22 September, at a hearing Basildon Crown Court during which Judge Samantha Cohen praised the work of the team in what is the largest child exploitation investigation ever undertaken by Essex Police.
Police said they identified 220 potential victims and Her Honour Judge Cohenat at Basildon Crown Court hailed their investigation as a “tour de force” and were able to secure charges in relation to 26 victims he targeted.
And as a result of that, he had no option but to admit to a total of 46 charges, including numerous counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, causing or inciting child sexual exploitation, arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence, causing or inciting child prostitution of pornography and blackmail.
“You are a predatory, manipulative and dangerous young man,” said Judge Samantha Cohen.
“You have wreaked havoc through the lives of 26 young men and their families.”
He will serve a minimum of 14 years in jail before being eligible for release.
The defendant was in a long-term relationship at the time of the offending.
He was made subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for the rest of his life.
Nick Bonehill, mitigating, said Lang apologised to “each and every victim”.
Essex Police said it was the largest child exploitation investigation in the force’s history
In new footage of the ‘predatory’ man being interviewed by Essex Police about how thousands of indecent images ended up on his phone, he tells officers: ‘Well you’re meant to do an investigation. I’m sure you’ll find out. Keep digging.’
The investigating offers replied ‘We’ve done the investigation and it points to you mate. That’s the reason why we’re here.’
Once completed, each potential victim then had to be carefully approached and safeguarded.
The vast majority of the victims are from Canvey Island, Benfleet, Basildon and Southend-on-Sea and could only be identified thanks to the collaboration with help from social care, rape and sexual abuse specialist service SERICC, the Educational Safeguarding Board and the Children’s Society.
As a group, each organisation has worked with schools in response to the investigation around online safety and developed bespoke information leaflet for victims and potential victims.