Ventura police detectives arrested an Oxnard man this week after they say he posed as a girl on Instagram, persuaded a teenage boy to send a nude photo of himself, then extorted him into sending additional photos, officials said.
Travis James Whitfield, 22, was taken into custody Monday as investigators served a search warrant at his home, according to the Ventura Police Department and Ventura County booking records.
The Ventura police Special Victim’s Unit received a tip in late March from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that a 14-year-old boy had reached out for help “as he was being pressured into sending photos to a subject on Instagram,” police said in a written statement.
After interviewing the victim, detectives learned a person using a profile and claiming to be female had contacted the boy and sent him nude photos of a female, police said. The profile was later determined to have been run by Whitfield.
“Under the fraudulent female profile, Whitfield asked for nude photos from the Juvenile,” according to the police statement. “The Juvenile sent a nude photo to Whitfield. Whitfield asked for more pictures, and (said) if the Juvenile did not send photos, Whitfield would send the first photo out on the internet.”
The victim then reached out to Instagram, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the National Center for Missing and Explited Children.
Investigators soon learned other minors had been contacted by Whitfield, dating back to 2018, police said.
“Detectives also learned Whitfield was conspiring with another subject who also lived in Oxnard,” the police statement said. “Both subjects were exchanging juvenile photos and sharing ideas on how to get juveniles to share nude photos of themselves.”
The Oxnard Police Department took over the investigation into the second suspect, who was arrested Wednesday, officials said. That person’s name was not immediately available.
Whitfield was booked on suspicion of contacting a minor for a sexual purpose, possession of child pornography, possession of child pornography with intent to distribute, dissuading a victim and conspiracy.
Whitfield’s bail was set at $200,000 pending his next scheduled appearance in Ventura County Superior Court on May 5, records show.
Detectives continued their investigation, which included seeking out possible additional victims, police said.
Anyone with information about Whitfield, who used the moniker “Devon Bay” and user name “Devon.Bxy” on Instagram, was urged to contact Ventura police Detective Alyse Quiroz at 805-339-4413.