A former resident of the St-Léonard borough was sentenced Thursday to a four-year prison term for threatening two preteen girls in the U.S. to convince them to send him nude photos.
“In essence, this is a case of sextortion, a newly minted word in which the individual threatens to post nude photos or videos of the victims on social media unless they continue to send him more photos,” Quebec Court Judge Salvatore Mascia said at the Montreal courthouse while reading from a lengthy judgment in the case of Mitchel Sendel, 33, who pleaded guilty last year to two counts of child luring and the production and possession of child pornography.
“As in the present matter, the victims comply in order to avoid embarrassment and humiliation,” Mascia said. “Of course the hope is that the extortionist will be satisfied and put an end to his demands, but not unlike in the present case, the extortionist is never satisfied.”
During sentencing arguments in May, prosecutor Camille Boucher asked that Sendel be sentenced to a prison term of up to five years, while defence lawyer Stéphanie Basso argued for a sentence of two years less a day.
Sendel, who has since moved to Ontario, began his crimes when he convinced a 12-year-old girl in Ohio he met through social media to send him a video in which she posed nude. He then threatened to post the video on social media unless she sent nude photos.
“She mentioned that she wanted to die and begged him to stop. He continued threatening her and asked her to send more photos,” Mascia said while summarizing the facts of the case. “The accused also communicated with (the 12-year-old’s) friend, an 11-year-old girl. He asked (the 11-year-old) to send photos of her naked so he would not publish (the 12-year-old girl’s) video.”
A standard publication ban has been placed on the identities of the victims.
Police in Ohio learned of what was happening on April 11, 2019, when they were called to a middle school attended by the 12-year-old victim. As the investigation progressed, the Montreal police traced an IP address to Sendel’s then-residence in St-Léonard. He was arrested in September 2019.
When the home was searched, police found more than 2,000 photos on a cellphone. The images were taken from a chat site where pedophiles shared images of young girls masturbating. More than 300 similar photos were found on a computer inside the home.
While listing the aggravating factors that contributed to the sentence, Mascia noted how long it took for Sendel’s case to come to an end, in part because he tried to withdraw his guilty pleas.
“A point that comes out in the pre-sentencing report is the limited empathy of the accused for his victims. Despite the necessary acknowledgement of having committed a serious sexual offense, the offender lacks insight into the consequences of his actions,” Mascia said, while noting Sendel was assessed as having an above-average risk of reoffending.
“Although he understands the inadequacies of his actions, his ability to empathize with the (12-year-old) is limited. In fact, he feels she is exaggerating the consequences of his action.”
The judge said that he felt Mendel “deserved some credit” for a letter he prepared for the two girls, apologizing for what he did.