The Scammer Who Captured Videos of Celebrities Masturbating Online

A new documentary follows the story of former ITV host Dan Lobb, who was the victim of sextortion.

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Jul 13 2018, 8:19pm

It's reassuring to think that our lives might be defined by something: a mission, a journey, a task or an event which, as we sit on our deathbeds and contemplate our lives, we know we'll be remembered for. For astronauts or explorers, it'll be reaching a new frontier. For the men who step onto the pitch for Sunday's World Cup final, that will be the legacy they leave. In the case of retired tennis player and former ITV host Dan Lobb, it seems his might be his attempt at finding out who leaked a video of him wanking onto the internet – an incident that is the focus of a documentary set to air on Channel 4 tonight, Celebrity Sextortion.

Back in November of 2016, Dan Lobb was shocked when the secretly-recorded video of him masturbating appeared online. The video was taken from a Skype sex session he'd had years before with a girl called Staci Ramsey – a Twitter follower he'd been flirting with. Lobb soon realised he wasn't the only victim; dozens of other British male celebrities (and "celebrities") had similarly compromising videos made public, comedian Joel Dommett, boxer Amir Khan and Lee Ryan of boyband Blue fame all included.

The catfish operation which stung Dan Lobb and his fellow victims is still going: on Twitter, Staci has close to 65,000 followers – some of whom are pretty famous – and her Instagram is still active. You can even add on her Snapchat. Only, before you too decide to send her anything, spoiler alert: she doesn't exist. Staci is in fact just an account made up of ripped photos and videos of the American porn star Riley Steele

You may have some questions: what is Dan Lobb? Why did he jerk off on Skype for someone he'd never met? Why has this relatively unknown man decided to draw the nation's attention to a clip they almost certainly hadn’t previously come across, which captures him ejaculating in front of his computer? Tonight, hopefully the Strictly Come Dancing 2011 runner-up will provide you with some answers.

Photo: Chris Batson / Alamy Stock Photo

When I manage to get hold of Dan Lobb's number, just days before his film is beamed into sitting rooms and laptops nationwide, I decide to give him a bell. Generally speaking, people who sign up to make invasive TV shows do so in the hope of generating some attention. Surely Dan Lobb – a man who has made an hour-long documentary about himself wanking – would want to talk about it. Except, when I call Dan Lobb and introduce myself he hangs up on me, ignoring the texts I have sent him. It's almost as if Dan Lobb might now also be asking himself something: what was I thinking making this film about me wanking?

But this really is more than a film about a wank video: we see Dan Lobb reflecting on how this leak has impacted him and his happiness; we see the rollercoaster of emotions as, during moments of calm, he talks freely about how, in fact, we all masturbate – so what’s the big deal here? We see him moments later, a little more melancholic, remembering that most of us can’t be seen doing it on demand with a simple Google search.

"Dan was motivated by a desire to get to the bottom of this mystery when he realised he wasn't the only victim," explains Tom Costello, the BAFTA award winner behind this film, who, unlike Lobb, is up for chatting. "Dozens of other celebrities had fallen prey to the same scam, carried out by the same person, and whoever was behind the Blonde Staci account was potentially still doing this to others. Dan wanted to work out who this was, and why they were doing it."

Tom adds that Dan was also motivated by the idea of raising awareness of a crime that is affecting a growing number of men, mostly non-celebrities. "At least five men in the UK have committed suicide after intimate webcam videos of them were recorded without their knowledge," he explains. "Dan felt that by getting to the bottom of his case, he might be able to not only achieve some closure for himself, but also to draw attention to a growing area of crime, that many people might be too ashamed to talk about publicly."

It's not entirely clear, by the end of Celebrity Sextortion, if Dan Lobb is a man to be lampooned or pitied. While his sticky situation was certainty self-created, you can't help but feel bad for someone in his position. Lobb starts out thinking he's been had by an organised criminal gang – not a wild assumption, given victims of sextortion are often coerced into paying out sums of cash – but what transpires is something much weirder: a world of odd celebrity sex video collectors, sellers and traders; unassuming characters who Dan confronts face-to-face in Slough.

Whether knowingly or not, Dan Lobb's endeavours do offer an interesting lesson: as more and more of us send nudes on social media, maybe – just maybe – we need to be liberated from our masturbation shame, and in the digital age get used to the idea that one day the world might see a video of us wanking. Well, the lesson is either that, or: you shouldn't jerk off in front of strangers on the internet.

@MikeSegalov

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

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