CHEHALIS, Wash. — A 16-year-old Chehalis boy is at the center of an FBI investigation involving dozens of victims and around 900 nude and explicit photos. Authorities say the teen faces extortion as well as a number of other charges.
The teen goes to W.F. West High School in Chehalis, where some of his victims were also his classmates. It’s the talk of the small town, where it’s also leaving parents wondering how to deal with kids and the internet in our digital age.
“It was surprising,” says Chehalis parent Chad Sandstrom.
His kids are home-schooled but they play sports at W.F. West High School. Sandstrom says his teens don’t have smartphones exactly because of all the temptations online.
“With Snapchat and everything– when we were kids we didn’t have all that.”
Sandstrom says he talks with his kids about what to share online, especially after the eight-month FBI investigation surfaced of the Chehalis teen, who authorities say at times posed as someone else online to get nude photos, and then would allegedly extort his victims.
"Sometimes I think kids have too much freedom," says Sandstrom . "I think the parents don't pay attention enough and I think they should be more involved with what kids do online."
Elizabeth, who didn't want us to use her last name, has two teens at W.F. West High School. She says it's critical that parents know what their kids are doing and that kids know the consequences of their actions, especially sharing personal information and photos.
"I've had to have some conversations with my children about how to handle things," says Elizabeth. "And they have a lot of access that's hard to watch 24/7, so it is very frightening."
While no one from the school district was available for an on-camera interview, in a statement Superintendent Ed Rothlin tells Q13 News, "The Chehalis School District does not encourage misuse of social media or this type of behavior. In fact, it is part of our curriculum to teach the opposite -- how to be safe online and how to avoid embarrassing and/or potential illegal online activity."
Authorities say the accused student will likely face up to 40 charges for his alleged conduct and will likely be tried as an adult.