Second alleged child porn 'sextortionist' apprehended

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express
Yates County Courthouse

PENN YAN – In Yates County Criminal Court Tuesday, Nov. 9 was a return on a superior court warrant for a sealed indictment against Jamel Werts (of the Buffalo area), appearing before Judge Jason Cook.

The second of two alleged child porn "sextortionists" accused of having preyed upon teenage girls from Yates County via online social media in 2018, Werts was arraigned on charges of Promoting a Sexual Performance by a Child (three Counts) and Endangering a Welfare of a Child (three counts).

District Attorney Todd Casella says the charges stem from an investigation coordinated by the State Police, FBI, and the Penn Yan Police Department. Werts was taken into custody following a traffic stop by Buffalo Police who discovered he was wanted in Yates County.

After Werts' plea of not guilty, Cook remanded him to jail in lieu of $20,000 cash bail, $40,000 secured bond, or $60,000 partially secured bond. He is due back in court on Dec. 21 for a motion argument on the People’s protective order application.

Werts' co-defendant, Jameel Collins was previously sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison on each charge, served concurrently, for his conviction for the same conduct. 

In his court allocution, Collins admitted he used the SnapChat social media platform to coerce two Yates County girls to send him images and videos that included sexual conduct. According to the Penn Yan Central School District, the online predator created numerous fake social media accounts, befriended students online, and used those relationships to coax the kids into sharing personal information and private photos. Then he used the information to blackmail the students into sharing additional explicit photographs and details under threat that the pictures and details already shared would be made public.

The investigation was initiated by Penn Yan School Resource Officer Jeff Stewart of the Penn Yan Police Department, and completed by the State Police and the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force, in conjunction with the Yates County District Attorney’s Office.