The Bend Police Department is being credited with assisting an a child pornography investigation that led to the federal indictment of a Tacoma, Wash., man.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Oregon says Brandon Kuper, 20, has been charged by a federal grand jury with production of child pornography and enticement.
According to the Department of Justice, Kuper used social media platforms Discord and Snapchat, under the username “Merqzs,” find an unknown number of young girls and convince them to produce and send him sexually explicit photos and videos.
Kuper allegedly threatened to hurt his victims’ families or post sexually explicit photos of them online if they did not comply with his demands, the DOJ said. He also is accused of telling his victims to cut his username “Merqzs” into their skin, take a photo of it and send it to him.
The DOJ said the case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Bend Police Department.
Bend Police say officers and a detective conducted an investigation after receiving a local tip, then relayed the information to a federal special agent.
There is no indication if any potential victim was from Central Oregon.
Kuper has pleaded not guilty and is being held pending trial, set to begin on Feb. 14.
Anyone who has information about the physical or online exploitation of children are encouraged to contact HSI at (866) 347-2423 or submit a tip online at report.cybertip.org.