South Carolina lawmakers last week passed “Gavin’s Law,” making sexual extortion — “sextortion” — a crime punishable by five years in prison on the first offense.
The law was named after Gavin Guffey, the 17-year-old son of State Rep. Brandon Guffey who committed suicide weeks after his high school graduation last year after scammers duped him into sending them nude photos and then threatened to publicize them if he didn’t pay up, CNN reported.
Brandon Guffey was running for office when he found his oldest son on the floor of their Rock Hill bathroom. He introduced the bill after winning the election and assuming office. When state senators voted for final passage on Thursday, he was watching tearfully from the gallery after a long struggle coming to terms with what happened and why.
“I was a basket case, I didn’t know what to do,” he told CNN. “My initial thought was, this is my fault – I left the gun out.”
Then, the messages from the scammers started coming to him, his 16-year-old son, and other family members. One in particular, which got to him on what would have been Gavin’s 18th birthday — August 20 — was particularly galling.
“It said, ‘did I tell you your son begged for his life,’ with a laughing face emoji,” Guffey said.
Guffey learned that scammers had gotten to Gavin pretending to be a girl. They sent him nude photos and asked him to return the favor. He did. Then they demanded money. He sent them the $25 he had in his account, but that, of course, wasn’t enough. He begged them not to expose the photos, promising he could get the money.
“He was telling them he would get them more money, please don’t send these images out … they didn’t care,” Guffey said. “I think in his mind it was just too much, and he didn’t know how he would overcome that.”
Sextortion scams have become more commonplace in recent years, and young boys are particularly susceptible.
“If you can extort 10 teenage boys that aren’t gonna say anything for $100 each, and do all that with one image that you got from a girl, it’s fairly simple,” Guffey said. “And teenage boys, whenever they see they’re getting that attention (from a girl), they’re not necessarily thinking.”
The lawmaker hopes Gavin’s Law will help cut through that.
According to the FBI, no arrests have been made in the case.
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[Featured image: Gavin Guffey, center, and his parents/Facebook]