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Convicted sex offender jailed for vast cybercrime charges involving 33 victims

Online grooming

A convicted sex-offender who admitted multiple charges relating to a vast cybercrime investigation from which he gained “sexual pleasure” and while under a strict court order to prevent this has been jailed.

When first charged the number of victims was three but this soared to 33, the majority of whom were female, with all targeted through online offending, despite the accused being banned from accessing the internet as part of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) imposed for serious previous convictions of a similar nature although not as wide-reaching.

Ryan Eastwood (30) from Coolnagard View, Omagh admitted 49 charges relating to unauthorised access to computer material, while the rest included attempted intimidation, attempting to cause persons to engage in sexual activity, disclosing sexual images, breaching the SOPO and attempted blackmail.

Offending occurred on various dates between October 2019 and June 2022.

Dungannon Crown Court heard Eastwood managed to access the social media accounts of some victims, in one instance falsely claiming to be an employee with Ann Summers lingerie company to obtain sexual images.

The SOPO breaches relate to Eastwood accessing an internet-capable device and engaging with females on social media, both of which he was expressly banned from doing, but according to court papers was ongoing for two years before his offending was discovered.

The order was first imposed in 2019 when Eastwood was convicted of voyeurism after posing as a model agency owner, using a similar email to a legitimate company, to persuade a woman to undress during an online “interview.”

The victim however became suspicious and alerted police.

In the latest matter Eastwood’s home was searched in December 2021 and a phone was recovered which was in breach of the SOPO.

He accepted this on July 5, 2022 and served three months in prison, however enquiries however continued and revealed multiple victims.

Judge Richard Greene KC said: “The knowledge used to commit these offences was obtained while the defendant was serving a previous sentence for broadly similar offending.

This involved “hacking” social media accounts and contacting their friends asking for images of sexual activity and lingerie as well as sexualised messaging.

Eastwood often provided a ruse to obtain passwords and in one case used that account to contact other females, claiming to be a representative for Ann Summers looking for face and body images.

Another victim received an email claiming to be from Ann Summers looking for brand ambassadors marketing executives.

She sent him images of herself and he responded asking her to be more sexual but she refused.

He took control of one victim’s account telling her: “Do what I say for one hour and I’ll give you the password.”

In a similar move another victim was told she could regain control on her account “if she became his slave”.

Judge Greene said the SOPO was breached.

“Dozens of times by accessing a device with internet capacity and engaging with females which he was forbidden from doing,” said the judge. “Offending continued while on bail with the defendant persistently pursuing a course of conduct intruding into the lives of young women using an awareness to hack and abuse.”

He told Eastwood: “These were nasty offences which have had a significant impact on the victims. You show a callous disregard for the privacy of the victims and it’s clear there was sexual pleasure from this behaviour.”

When it was contended Eastwood was subject to bullying in the past, Judge Greene remarked: “It would be thought that would make you all the more aware of this impact of your behaviour.”

Eastwood was jailed for a total of three years and will remain subject to the SOPO and Sex Offender Registration for 10 years.

Reacting to the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Woods, said:  “Today’s sentencing is the result of an investigation into offences carried out between October 2019 and June 2022. The victims were identified not only in Northern Ireland, but also in England, Scotland and Wales.  The significant protracted period of offending, coupled with the wide range of victims’ locations, highlights both the scale of the offending and the complexities of the investigation. It involved investigators and technical officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Cyber Crime team, with support from Action Fraud and police Cyber Teams in England.

“Eastwood used a variety of techniques, including social engineering, to obtain personal pictures of victims. On some occasions he used compromised social media accounts, often posing as friends, to gain access to victims’ accounts. He managed to access personal information in private areas of accounts.  And, in some instances, he posed as a representative for lingerie companies in an attempt to obtain images.  Whatever the deceptive means, the end result was the same: a violation of privacy and trust, resulting in understandable distress.

“The victims in this case were targeted through cybercrime, despite the defendant being previously banned from using the internet as part of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.  Today’s sentence should send a clear message to anyone involved in this type of cybercrime that they cannot act with impunity and that they are not anonymous. Offenders will be identified, vigorously pursued, and brought before the courts to face the consequences of such activity.”

Detective Chief Inspector Woods continued: “The Police Service is grateful to each and every individual who found the courage to speak up. Your support in this complex investigation has been invaluable in helping us to piece together an intricate pattern of offending.

“I am keen to take the opportunity to encourage anyone who may be the victim of such offences to come forward.  You will be treated with the utmost sensitivity.  And please be assured that if you are, or have been, a victim then you’re certainly not alone.”

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