Crime - Sacto 911

Former ARC student pleads no contest in ‘sextortion’ case

A former American River College theater arts student has pleaded no contest to computer-related crimes that include attempts to extort female victims.

Christian Brian Hirtzel, 21, entered the no-contest plea Tuesday to felony charges of extortion, accessing a computer to extort, contacting a minor to commit a sex offense, and possession of child pornography, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office news release.

Hirtzel was arrested in January by Los Rios Community College District police following more than a yearlong investigation in which they were assisted by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Justice, college officials said.

Over several years, prosecutors said, Hirtzel extorted and attempted to extort at least nine female victims. He obtained compromising photos of victims, primarily by hacking into their email or social media accounts. He then anonymously messaged the victims, including at least two who were younger than 18, and threatened to distribute the images to friends, family members or their college if they failed to send more graphic nude photos or videos of themselves.

If the victims complied, Hirtzel used the new photos as additional leverage to make further demands, authorities said. Several times, he posted the images of victims on social media sites, regardless of whether they had complied with his demands.

Although Hirtzel had previously dated several of the victims, he had only limited connection with others through high school or college. When asked by one victim why he was doing this, he told the victims he wanted to feel powerful and feel like he had won, prosecutors said.

Hirtzel faces a sentence of four years and eight months in prison, and will be required to register as a sex offender for life, according to the District Attorney’s Office. He is to be sentenced Aug. 2 by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy