Los Angeles, California - A Moorpark man who used social networking websites to trick, extort or threaten more than a dozen girls and boys into sending him naked photos and videos was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for producing child pornography.
Jeremy Brendan Sears, 24, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge John F. Walter.
Once Sears finishes his prison term, Judge Walter ordered that he will be on supervised released for the rest of his life.
Sears pleaded guilty in January to one count of production of child pornography in a binding plea agreement that called for a sentence of at least 15 years.
According to court documents, Sears set up fake profiles on Facebook, Meetme, and other social networking websites that appeared to be from teenage boys and girls. Sears allegedly used the bogus profiles to communicate with real-life teenagers, sometimes beginning online romantic relationships with the real-life teens and then encouraging them to send him sexually explicit videos and photos of themselves. Sears “used false online identities to persuade teenage victims to send defendant sexually explicit photos or to engage in sexually explicit video webchats that defendant recorded,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court.
In some cases, Sears threatened to harm the real-life teens or their loved-ones unless they sent him naked images. In some cases, after receiving the images of the underage victims, Sears would distribute those images, along with the victims’ names and personal information, to other members of his online social networking groups or to publicly accessible websites.
“Other times, [Sears] would make physical threats against his minor victims, threatening that the victims would be raped, tortured, or killed if they did not give defendant a thing of value—namely, nude and sexually explicit images of themselves,” Sears admitted in his plea agreement.
Sears approached some of his victims after finding them active in social-networking groups for fans of music acts popular with young teenagers, such as Justin Bieber or One Direction. Sears harassed victims by making online accusations about their sexual activity, insulting them, or repeatedly insulting people the victims liked, according to the plea agreement filed in this case. “Defendant would then offer to stop the harassment if his victims would send him sexually explicit images or would transmit to him live depictions of themselves engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.