CHICAGO — A Chicago-area musician pleaded guilty Friday to a federal child pornography charge and admitted to enticing several underage girls, many as young as 14 years old, to produce sexually explicit videos of themselves.
This guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr., Northern District of Illinois, and Special Agent in in Charge James M. Gibbons with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security (HSI).
This case was investigated by HSI, Illinois Attorney General’s Office’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the Bloomingdale (Illinois) Police Department.
Austin Jones, 26, of Bloomingdale, Illinois, pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography.
Jones is a musician with a significant following on social media, including Facebook and YouTube. His online music videos have been viewed millions of times.
Jones admitted in a plea agreement that in 2016 and 2017 he chatted with six underage girls on Facebook and enticed them to produce pornographic videos of themselves and send them to him.
Jones told some of his victims to send him the videos as a way to “prove” that they were his biggest fans, the plea agreement states. He also told some of his victims that the videos were part of a modeling opportunity, and that he could assist them in gaining followers on the social media site Instagram, the plea agreement states.
In addition to the six victims whom he enticed to send videos, Jones further admitted in the plea agreement that he used Facebook about 30 other occasions to attempt to persuade minor girls to send him sexually explicit videos and photographs.
U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee, Northern District of Illinois, conditionally accepted the guilty plea and set sentencing for May 3.
Jones faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Neff Welsh, Northern District of Illinois.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.
All defendants are presumed innocent until proved otherwise in federal court.
Members of the public who have further information regarding this case are encouraged to contact the Hamilton County Metro Child Exploitation Task Force at 317 595-3361.
This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 16,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child exploitation material, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2017, more than 2,700 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 900 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page. HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.