Buster Hernandez AKA Brian Kil: Where is the Sextortionist Now?

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As the use of cyberspace continues to rise, it has become an integral part of society, giving way to new social dynamics. However, this technological evolution has also opened avenues for crimes to proliferate in the digital realm. With an increasing number of young individuals engaging online, they become vulnerable targets. One such harrowing story is that of Buster Hernandez, a man involved in extorting explicit images from young people, particularly girls. The challenges of capturing and tracking down individuals like him are explored in detail in the episode ‘Crime Junkie: Sextortion,’ and the urgent need to address and combat cybercrimes affecting vulnerable members of society emerges as the most important theme.

Who is Buster Hernandez?

The earliest one can trace the online activities of Buster Hernandez is from 2012. His modus operandi was always the same he would target people between the ages of 12 and 15 and send them a message, on Facebook mostly . Hernandez would start the message by addressing the children with their names and go on to tell them that he had compromising pictures of them that they had taken. He would bully them and tell them to send him sexually explicit pictures of themselves and if they failed to do so, he would threaten them with sending their pictures to their friends and family and he would also tell them that he would be posting the picture on his profile.

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Hernandez operated under various aliases, utilizing over 350 names, with “Brian Kil” being one of the most frequently used. His modus operandi involved not only threatening his victims with exposure but also making severe threats such as murder and harm to their parents, families, and friends. Even when victims complied with his demands, he persisted with his threats and continued posting explicit content online. Despite falsely claiming to end the extortion after certain demands were met, he never ceased his actions. Reports indicate that he extorted some victims for years, and the crime only stopped when he was caught.

The situation escalated in 2015 when Buster Hernandez initiated communication with a teenage girl in Plainfield, Indiana. What initially started as a conversation that he had had with many other young people, turned for the worse when he began making bomb threats specifically targeting Plainfield and Danville high schools on December 17, 2015. Expanding his threats, on December 20, 2015, he targeted the Plainfield Walmart and the Shops at Perry Crossing in Plainfield. These alarming threats sent shockwaves through the local community, prompting authorities to involve the FBI due to the gravity and nature of the threats.

The Indiana-based Rook team, specializing in digital forensics, collaborated with state and federal authorities to uncover Buster Hernandez’s location. With cooperation from Facebook, they discovered that Hernandez was utilizing the Tor network to conceal his IP address and maintain anonymity. To pinpoint his location, a victim-turned-ally was enlisted to send a non-explicit video, aiming to trace his IP address upon opening. Although the initial attempt failed, a second try successfully unmasked his IP address. The FBI, employing a utility truck and strategically placed cameras, gathered conclusive evidence, putting an end to Hernandez’s years-long reign of cyber terror.

Buster Hernandez is in Prison Today

The police looked into Hernandez’s online activities and reviewed over 20,000 messages that he had sent and received. They found out that he had not only been extorting children for explicit images but had been mentally harassing them too and in some cases, he went as far as to tell them to kill themselves. After his arrest, the police released the list of the aliases that he had used so that people could identify if they had been his victim. During his trial in 2021, Hernandez faced 41 charges that included sextortion, intimidation, and abetment of suicide. His defense argued that he engaged in these activities as a game, maintaining that he did not perceive them as extending beyond the realm of the internet. They contended that Hernandez’s actions ceased once he stepped away from the computer and, therefore, did not cause real-world harm. In contrast, prosecutors portrayed Hernandez as a cunning criminal who weaponized the internet intentionally, causing harm to numerous individuals, predominantly minors.

During Hernandez’s trial, some of his victims shared their experiences, expressing how he had stolen vital years from their lives and inflicted enduring emotional and mental scars. Hernandez received a 75-year sentence, and when allowed to address the court, he expressed disbelief at the messages he had sent, acknowledging his actions and offering an apology. Currently serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona, Hernandez, at 33 years old, faces the prospect of being in prison until his late 80s or early 90s before becoming eligible for parole.

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