How Gemase Simmons chewed up and spit out young fame-hungry victims for years
Published: February 20, 2013
By fall of 2010, Andrea was 18 years old, fresh out of high school, and had just started her freshman year at the University of Texas – San Antonio. A communications major, she visited information booths lining the halls of the university’s Humanities and Social Sciences building, searching out jobs, internships, and any way to get experience in publishing or television.
That’s where Gemase Lee Simmons found her. Simmons offered Andrea what he called the opportunity of a lifetime. It was one of at least two times Simmons set up shop on campus.
“I thought he was with the school or some organization they’d let in,” Andrea testified. She found Simmons warm, charming, and professional. After a brief chat, she signed up at his booth heralding “G2News,” what Simmons called an up-and-coming news network. Andrea thought she’d found a promising writing gig. Simmons told her “G2News” would fast track her into the world of journalism.
“It was freshman year,” Andrea said. “I felt like I needed to get involved with something.”
Within months, Andrea found herself trapped in a hellish universe of Simmons’ own creation. She fielded threatening text messages and emails from powerful executives she’d never personally met. Convinced she had unknowingly signed a strict modeling contract, shadowy voices prodded Andrea into casting “sessions” with Simmons, where he sexually assaulted her on camera. The voices threatened to make the images public if Andrea didn’t do as they demanded.
(All victims in this story have been given pseudonyms).
In one session, after being raped by Simmons, Andrea cried so much she had to run to the bathroom, about to vomit. Simmons filmed the whole thing, telling her they’d have to start over if she ruined the take.
This month, Simmons emerged from his federal trial as the poster-boy of online predators, a whole new breed of con man. FBI agents who investigated Simmons and federal prosecutors who took him down say they’ve never seen anything quite like the scheme Simmons crafted and deployed on over 100 women and men — that authorities know of.
With numerous email accounts, fake Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, Simmons barraged his victims with bogus personas. He used textNow and TextPlus apps on his iPhone to text from a litany of phantom numbers.
These alter egos coerced numerous young men and women to send nude photos and videos. They conned many into having sex with Simmons on camera. And they threatened any who tried to back out. The end result was thousands of graphic texts, nude images, and even child pornography, all discovered on Simmons’ iPhone, computers, external hard drives, and iPads.
“It was absolutely a blueprint,” federal prosecutor Bettina Richardson told the Current. “If nothing else, he was consistent.” The feds indicted Simmons last year for extorting eight of those victims, six of them minors.
After days of grueling testimony, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery convicted Simmons, who asked for a bench trial in lieu of facing a jury, on all 39 felony counts ranging from extortion to bank fraud and production of child pornography.
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