A THURROCK man who targeted more than 500 girls on Snapchat over the course of five years has been jailed for 11 years.
Akash Sondhi, 27 targeted 574 victims from across the globe – including the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Romania and beyond. Some of his victims have still not been traced.
Between 2015 and 2020, Sondhi would hack into the Snapchat accounts of girls and young women, aged between 16 and 25, and blackmail them into sending him intimate images, or he threatened to expose existing images to their friends and family in their phone contacts.
His address in Hedingham Road, Chafford Hundred, was raided by officers from our Cyber Crime Unit on 19 March last year when several victims made reports to us.
A number of his victims have since been identified and have been supported by the Cyber team.
Sondhi admitted a total of 65 offences – including hacking, blackmail, and voyeurism – and at Basildon Crown Court today (Tuesday 5 January) was sentenced to 11 years in prison, a five year Serious Crime Prevention Order, and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.
Detective Sergeant Ian Collins, from the Essex Police Cyber Crime Unit said:
“This is an excellent result for the 573 victims in this case and the Essex Cyber Team.
“The sentence Akash Sondhi has received today reflects how much distress he caused to his victims.
“He targeted with no remorse purporting to be a friend on social media after hacking accounts, then once he got access to their intimate pictures he would attempt to blackmail them around disclosure of the images to friends and family demanding more images and videos of his own choice putting the victims through an ordeal causing extreme distress and embarrassment.
“Since his remand and now this sentence we have manged to stop this vile offender form targeting more victims.
“This is a wakeup call for anyone committing this type of crime we will catch you and bring you to justice, and you can go to prison for the distress caused to the victims.
“I urge anyone using social media not to store intimate images of themselves to secure and protect your data and make sure you don’t become a victim.
“Don’t share passwords even if you think it’s a trusted friend that asks you for them it might not be, its chat in a text”
“There are several ways to secure your online accounts which most online providers support such as the use of two factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) put this with a strong unique password for each online account will protect you and your data.”
DS Collins added: “We have received assistance from forces across the country in supporting victims and gathering information and I want to say particular thank you to Avon and Somerset Police, West Mercia Police, North Yorkshire Police, Merseyside Police and Police Scotland.
“I also want to pay tribute to the professionalism, dedication, and tenacity of Detective Constable Arran Holmes whose commitment to this case has ensured Sondhi will be behind bars for a significant amount of time and unable to target anyone else.”
To learn more about children staying safe on the internet and apps, please visit our website: https://www.essex.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/caa/child-abuse/online-child-abuse/
If you or someone you love has been impacted by a similar issue, please contact the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre at Action Fraud to report on 0300 123 2040 or use Action Fraud’s online reporting tool.
You can also seek support from the NSPCC by calling 0800 1111.