Henderson, Ky. (WEHT)- A U.S. District Court judge sentenced an Illinois man to 75 years in federal prison on Monday after he was found guilty of conducting a sextortion scheme on Facebook with multiple underage victims.
Michael A. Ferris, 44, was convicted by a jury in November 2022 on 25 felony counts of extortion, cyberstalking, and production, distribution, and possession of child pornography. Following his prison sentence, he will serve the rest of his life on supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe said that Ferris was seeking out girls who were vulnerable.
“Michael Ferris intentionally sought out young girls with exploitable past trauma for his own
callous pleasure, and his coercive crimes caused devastating and long-lasting suffering for his
Documents presented at trial say that Ferris targeted teenage girls on Facebook and engaged in a pattern of extortion, commonly known as sextortion,” from at least March 2020 until November 2020.
Court documents say as part of his scheme, Ferris created fake Facebook personas appearing to be teenage girls. He also joined Facebook groups meant for teenagers and survivors of sexual abuse. Ferris sent unsolicited messages to teenage girls under the guise of being a peer looking to make a new friend. If the teens responded, Ferris tried to convince them to send a naked photograph or answer personal questions about themselves. Court documents say Ferris then used that information as leverage to coerce them into sending more explicit photos, answering more sexual questions, or performing sexual acts on themselves or others while Ferris watched on video chat.
Authorities say if Ferris’s victims refused to comply or pleaded to stop, Ferris harassed and threatened them until they kept going, usually threatening to send the girls’ photos or answers to personal questions to their friends, parents, police, or child protective services. Even after Ferris’ victims complied with his demands, he would often still distribute their sexually explicit images to friends and family.