Greenbelt, Maryland – On Friday, February 21, 2020, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Zhi Tian Lang, age 24, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, to 14 years in federal prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release, for receipt of child pornography and to extortion by threat to ruin the reputation of another. Judge Messitte also ordered that Lang must register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Lang is also required to pay a special assessment of $5,200. Lang admitted that he threatened to post revealing photos of his victims on social media and other Internet platforms if they did not send him sexually explicit photographs and/or videos of themselves.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department.
According to his guilty plea, between at least January and October 2014 Lang communicated with minor female victims ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old and located throughout the United States, including South Dakota, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. Lang used an Internet messaging application and used the name “Seth” when contacting his victims. Lang would obtain pictures of minor victims from their social media accounts or through direct flirtation. The pictures often depicted the victims in their underwear. Lang would then demand that unless the victim provided him with nude pictures, he would post the initial pictures on a public Internet account or send them directly to one or more of the victim’s acquaintances.
As detailed in his plea agreement, Lang threatened at least eleven minor victims to provide him with sexually explicit photos and/or videos of themselves and only a few refused to do so. Lang admitted that he posted photographs of some of the minor victims to coerce them and sent at least one photo to another individual.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI and the Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation, and thanked law enforcement agencies in New Jersey and South Dakota for their assistance. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph R. Baldwin, who prosecuted the federal case.
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