Lifetime’s ‘Caught in His Web’ Is a Cyberbullying Tale Ripped From the Headlines

Is ‘Caught in His Web’ a true story? Read about the real-life case that likely inspired the Lifetime movie about a mysterious cyberbully.


Feb. 19 2022, Published 11:31 a.m. ET

Lifetime has a tradition of turning real-life cases into made-for-TV movies, but it also airs purely fictitious fare. So, is Caught in His Web a true story?

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Promos for the new movie — which airs tonight, Saturday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. ET — say it’s “ripped from the headlines.” And though the network doesn’t specify the real-life basis for the story, the movie’s plot bears striking resemblances to a recent “sextortion” case…

The movie tells the horrifying story of a cyberbully harassing girls for nude photos, Lifetime says.

In the movie, Emma (Alison Thornton), Olivia (Malia Baker), and Gabby (Emma Tremblay) deal with a cyberbully who calls himself Blake. After hacking into their cell phones and computers, Blake coerces the girls into sending him nude photos, harasses them relentless, and “tracks their every move,” as Lifetime’s synopsis says.

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“Feeling extremely alone and experiencing anxiety, depression and fear, the girls later discover they are not alone in being tormented,” the network adds. “They decide to join forces and enlist the help of Detective Holland (Garcelle Beauvais), in the hunt to unmask their harasser and end their nightmare.”

The movie was written by Danielle Iman, one of the writers of the Apple TV+ show Swagger, and it was directed by Star Trek: Discovery alum Hannah Chessman. Actress and The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg, meanwhile, serves as an executive producer.

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The ‘Caught in His Web’ story is similar to the story of Ryan J. Vallee.

That cyberbullying story may sound familiar to New Hampshire residents. In February 2017, a New Hampshire man named Ryan J. Vallee was sentenced to 96 months in prison after “hacking into the online accounts of dozens of teenaged female victims and sending them threatening online communications, in some instances containing sexually explicit photos, in order to force the victims to send him sexually explicit photos of themselves,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire.

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In its press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office added that Vallee engaged in a computer hacking and “sextortion” scheme between 2011 and 2016. In that scheme, he took over victims’ email, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, sent them threatening message, and demanded that they send sexually explicit conduct.

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Then in August 2016 — amid an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the police department of Belmont, N.H. — Vallee pleaded guilty to a 31-count superseding indictment. That indictment charged him with 13 counts of making interstate threats, one count of computer hacking to steal information, eight counts of computer hacking to extort, eight counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of cyberstalking, according to the news release.

Prosecutors on the case said they were satisfied with Vallee’s eight-year sentence. “It should send a message to other people out there that you can’t do this,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnie Huftalen said at the time, per WMUR. “This is real crime. It really hurts people, and it creates injuries that will last for a lifetime.”

Caught in His Web airs tonight, Saturday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

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