TERRE HAUTE —
A Clay County man has agreed to plead guilty to what federal prosecutors call perhaps the nation’s largest “sextortion” case.
Richard L. Finkbiner, 40, of eastern Clay County signed the plea agreement last week admitting that he used the Internet to obtain sexually explicit images of minors and then threatening to release those images if the minors did not provide him with more images.
Prosecutors signed the agreement Wednesday.
Authorities believe Finkbiner victimized hundreds of minors all across the U.S. He was charged only in connection with a fraction of those cases. He also agreed to plead guilty to owning child pornography.
If a federal judge accepts the 23-page plea agreement, Finkbiner would face a sentence of between 30 and 50 years in prison. In federal cases such as this, a defendant is required to serve at least 85 percent of a sentence, meaning Finkbiner would be 65 when released if he received the lightest possible sentence.
“The government will argue for a much higher sentence” than 30 years, said Joseph Hogsett, U.S. attorney for the southern district of Indiana, who stopped in Terre Haute for a short news conference Thursday.
After being tricked into providing sexually explicit images, minors “became, in effect, Finkbiner’s ‘cam’ slaves,” Hogsett told reporters in the federal courthouse downtown.
Police arrested Finkbiner in April 2012 and charged him with sexually exploiting two minors. A search of his rural Clay County home turned up thousands of sexually explicit images and videos showing hundreds of possible victims. Since then, charges related to 11 other victims, mostly teenage boys, have been introduced into the case.
Although Finkbiner and prosecutors have signed the plea agreement, it must still be approved by a federal judge. In any case, if more victims come forward, their “victim impact” statements could influence any possible sentence, said Zach Myers, assistant U.S. attorney and a lead investigator in the case, who was also in Terre Haute Thursday. Additional victims could also seek restitution, Hogsett said.
The plea agreement sets special conditions in the event Finkbiner, who has been in custody since his arrest, is ever released from prison. It prohibits him from owning pornography, orders him to receive treatment for sexual disorders and bars him from having any unsupervised contact with minors unless approved by a probation officer in advance.
The agreement also orders Finkbiner to register as a sex offender, consent to searches (including searches of his computer systems) and to provide a DNA sample. Finkbiner also faces the possibility of paying restitution to his victims and could face a court-ordered fine.
In exchange for Finkbiner’s plea, prosecutors agreed not to bring any additional charges stemming from the “sexploitation” case, according to the agreement.
A judge has ordered Finkbiner to remain in federal custody until his sentencing or trail.
Hogsett on Thursday urged other victims to contact the U.S. attorney’s office at 888-368-5067.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or