HOUSTON — A Houston-area man is facing federal charges after FBI officials said he was busted selling stolen photos and videos of women, some of whom were underage.
Andrew Venegas, 23 (according to an identification card), was charged with sexual exploitation of children.
How they said he did it
According to investigators, Venegas stole the photos and videos by gaining access to victims' social media accounts. They said he would steal them and then blackmail the women into sending him more nudes and/or money in exchange for him removing their content.
They said he would target his victims through social media, including Linked, TikTok and Snapchat, according to court records.
Some of the victims were under 18 and at least one of them was from Texas. Some of the victims reported to local police departments that their images and videos were being used without their permission. They believed the images and videos were taken from their Snapchat accounts. According to court documents, Venegas took photos and videos of more than 1,000 victims.
According to court documents, Venegas operated online as "Snarkylol" and had two nearly identical websites set up where he would sell the images and videos to customers.
Venegas offered packages to customers for about $100 to $200 and he only accepted cryptocurrency as payment, according to court documents.
He was operating the scheme since at least 2022, according to court records.
How he was caught
On three occasions, Venegas accepted payment from undercover officers in exchange for content, court documents said. The undercover officers were not provided with any content from one of those purchases and only received part of the agreed-upon content from another purchase.
One victim reached out to Venegas and asked him to take down her nude photos, but according to court documents, Venegas told her she would have to send more photos or pay him $250 in cryptocurrency. After the victim paid, there was no evidence that the images were ever removed.
Law enforcement was able to trace the cryptocurrency account to which the victim sent the payment to two email addresses. They were then able to see that the money was moved from one cryptocurrency account to another cryptocurrency account in the name of "Andrew Venegas," according to court documents.
Also, law enforcement was able to trace the IP address back to Venegas, court documents said.
Although the address listed on his ID is in Cypress, he was arrested during a raid at a house in Magnolia on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. Authorities said that's where Venegas was living at the time.
After taking Venegas into custody, officers sent messages via the Telegram app to Snarkylol and they showed up on Venegas' phone, according to court records. That proved to them that he was the one responsible for the blackmail scheme.
Venegas is due in court on Friday.