Man taunted college students with stolen nude photos from their Snapchats, US feds say

Valdez is accused of sharing and trading some of the photos he stole with other individuals who federal prosecutors said carried out similar Snapchat schemes. — Reuters

A man tricked college-aged women – including three Florida university students – into giving him access to their Snapchat accounts to steal their private photos, US federal prosecutors said.

While in their accounts, he downloaded their saved images and then taunted the women about obtaining nude photos of them, according to prosecutors.

Joseph Alexander Valdez, a 30-year-old resident of Chicago, preyed on more than 700 women, including two Florida State University students and one University of Florida student, the US Attorney’s Office for the North District of Florida said in a March 1 news release.

The three students “had no idea who was taunting them with their stolen, private images”, prosecutors wrote in court documents. “They had no way of knowing whether it was a friend, a classmate, or (as it turned out) a complete stranger.”

One “endured such extreme anxiety that she ceased attending in-person college courses and enrolled in online courses”, a sentencing memorandum says.

Valdez is accused of sharing and trading some of the photos he stole with other individuals who federal prosecutors said carried out similar Snapchat schemes.

Now, a judge has sentenced Valdez to eight years in prison on charges of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of stalking, the attorney’s office said.

“His attempts to shame, taunt, and in some instances extort his victims, demonstrate his predatory nature and desire to inflict harm,” US Attorney Jason R. Coody said in a statement. “This sentence rightly punishes the defendant and should serve as a significant deterrent to others.”

Vadim A. Glozman, Valdez’s defense attorney, declined a request for comment from McClatchy News on March 4.

How the Snapchat accounts were accessed

Between June 2021 and December 2022, Valdez got into dozens of women’s Snapchat accounts through a phishing scheme, according to the sentencing memo.

First, he figured out their phone numbers using information that was publicly available and by using social media, then he tried to reset their Snapchat passwords using their phone numbers, the sentencing memo says.

After putting their phone numbers into the platform’s “reset password” feature, Snapchat sent a verification code to the women through email or text, according to the sentencing memo.

Valdez “almost simultaneously” texted the victims while pretending to be Snapchat’s Privacy Center and asked for “the verification code or else risk having their accounts locked”, the sentencing memo says.

Those who prosecutors say Valdez conned into providing the verification codes had their accounts compromised and personal images stolen, according to the court filing.

“Valdez deceived, violated, and then harassed these young women,” prosecutors wrote in the memo.

Sometimes, Valdez would comment on the women’s bodies while he bragged to them about getting their photos, according to prosecutors.

Fifteen people victimised by Valdez, including the Florida college students, have been identified by law enforcement, according to the sentencing memo.

Some “victims are so embarrassed that they don’t want to be involved in this criminal case”, the sentencing memo says.

According to prosecutors, Valdez didn’t carry out the phishing scheme for financial gain and was in a “blossoming relationship” with a woman who was his fiancée at the time.

Instead, he appeared to have targeted and harassed the women “to satisfy his perverted sexual interests”, prosecutors argued ahead of sentencing.

In a sentencing memo submitted by his attorney, Gozman argued Valdez was “profoundly remorseful” and “fully accepted responsibility since the early stages of this case”.

Several character letters were submitted on Valdez’s behalf, including one written by his wife and addressed to the judge.

“I sincerely believe that Joseph is remorseful in the mistakes he’s made and accepts responsibility for his actions,” Valdez’s wife wrote in the letter. “I have no doubt that he will take the necessary steps to rehabilitate himself and contribute positively to society.”

As part of his sentencing, Valdez has also been ordered to pay restitution to his victims, the attorney’s office said. A restitution amount wasn’t specified.

These women “will never know how many people around the world possess their private, nude images like one collects baseball cards, nor can they fully recoup these compromising images from the hands of those who possess them for prurient purposes”, prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo.

After serving his prison sentence, Valdez will serve three years of supervised release, according to prosecutors. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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