Man who blackmailed girls into sending explicit sexual images is sentenced to 20 years

A man in Washington state who posed as a teenager online and blackmailed girls ages 12 to 16 across the country into sending him sexually explicit photos and videos, was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prisonfederal authorities said.

The man, Joshua Henry Punt, 39, of Ridgefield, Washington, pleaded guilty in April to using the Kik and Snapchat messaging apps to connect with girls..

Punt pressured them to send him sexually explicit images of themselves and then use that material to demand more content under the threat of making the images in their possession public, the Justice Department said in a statement. release.

I know identified eight victims, aged between 12 and 16 years, in the states of Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

“This accused predator infiltrated our homes, used electronic access and social media to deceive, pressure, and sexually exploit girls across the country,” Tessa M. Gorman, Acting US Attorney, said in a statement.

“We warn our children about the ‘dangerous stranger’ they might find on the street; we must be equally attentive to those who are lurking online. “

Colin Fieman, Punt’s attorney, called the case “a tragic situation.”

“Joshua was the victim of extreme child abuse,” Fieman, a federal public defender, said in an interview Monday night.

“He is schizophrenic. He has never had any mental health support. So there were many extenuating and complicated circumstances with the case that the judge took into account today. “

Investigators identified Punt as the administrator of a child pornography distribution group on Kik, where he demanded that new members share content and banned those who did not, according to the statement, adding that an undercover Federal Office employee Investigations found a cache of child pornography after following the links posted by Punt.

According to federal authorities, Punt pleaded guilty in April to producing child pornography, inciting minors, distributing child pornography and advertising child pornography.

You will be asked to register as a sex offender after completing your prison sentence.

Punt was arrested by local authorities in May 2019 and federally charged in November of that year, authorities said.

According to a federal complaint from November 2019, a 15-year-old girl who investigators identified as the first victim said she had connected on Kik with someone claiming to be 17 years old.

The person, who according to investigators was the defendant, demanded three days later that the girl send him explicit material.

When she did, he asked for more and threatened to distribute the images and videos of her in his possession throughout his hometown if she did not comply.

Punt, according to the complaint, sent the girl screenshots of an apparent Kik group conversation, in which she shared her images, along with the group members’ reactions.

In response, according to the complaint, the girl created and sent more sexually explicit content of herself “to prevent him from making his representations public.”

Because Punt did not stop harassing the girl, continued to threaten her, and demanded more material, she and her parents contacted the New York State Police in December 2018 and the FBI began investigating.

At the sentencing hearing on Monday, US District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle said the damage inflicted by Punt would extend for decades.

He also spoke directly to Punt: “You could see the pain in those girls, and you continued to do so, eight beautiful and innocent girls, you tortured them.”

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