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A New Jersey man who was charged in early 2020 with targeting students across the U.S. in a child pornography scam, including three in Rhode Island, was sentenced Tuesday to more than seven years in federal prison.

Officials with U.S. District Court in Providence said the man, 23-year-old Pritkumar Tarunkumar Patel, admitted to befriending four minor females on social media in 2019, three of them in Rhode Island, before convincing them to send sexually explicit photographs of themselves to him. The victims included two Chariho students and a Westerly resident, according to court documents.

According to court records, Patel was sentenced this week to 90 months in federal prison followed by 5 years’ supervised release. He will also be required to pay each of the four victims restitution in the amount of $3,000 and was ordered to also pay $5,000 in accordance with the Justice for Victims Trafficking Act.

Patel was arrested in January 2020 and pleaded guilty in May to federal charges of cyberstalking and receipt of child pornography. In accordance with a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, it was jointly recommended that Patel would serve a sentence of 84 months in prison.

“Patel admitted that he threatened to post the sexually explicit photos of them online and that he would share them with their friends, classmates, and family members. He also threatened to create Instagram accounts in the girls’ names and use those accounts to post the pictures online,” said Jim Martin, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Weisman’s office, in a release.

On at least one occasion he followed through on his threats by posting a sexually explicit picture of a 13-year-old girl from Indiana on an Instagram account he created using her name.

The police were able to file charges against Patel following a months-long investigation led by Hopkinton Police Detective John Forbes. Hopkinton police partnered with the Rhode Island State Police, New Jersey State Police and Homeland Security Investigations on the case, leading Homeland Security agents to use information to obtain an arrest warrant.

Forbes was initially contacted in August 2019 by the family of a 14-year-old girl from Hope Valley who were concerned regarding an inappropriate online relationship the 14-year-old had with a person she believed was a 17-year-old boy named “Taylor.”

Patel met the girl via Instagram and convinced her to send nude photographs. He later asked for her phone number and urged the girl to “mask” his number as a female friend to avoid detection.

After receiving the photographs, the police said he threatened to disseminate them to her entire school when the victim’s mother learned of the interaction and blocked him. That led the family to take the matter to police, according to an affidavit.

A warrant led police to discover the girl’s photos and several of Patel’s genitals on the account that Patel had used. A few days later, a second victim was identified and police were able to connect the two cases. Further investigation determined Patel also befriended a 16-year-old Westerly girl in February 2019 while also using the name “Taylor,” and later convinced her to send nude photos, as well as interact using the FaceTime app.

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