JURY CONVICTS SOUTHERN ILLINOIS MAN OF ONLINE SEXTORTION SCHEME TARGETING TEEN GIRLS ON FACEBOOK
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – On Friday, November 18, 2022, a federal jury found Michael A. Ferris, 44, of
Mill Shoals, Illinois, guilty of twenty-five felony counts of extortion, cyberstalking, and
production, distribution, and possession of child pornography involving nine minor victims.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from at least March 2020 until
November 2020, Ferris targeted teenage girls on Facebook and engaged in a pattern of extortion,
commonly known as “sextortion.” His victims ranged in age from 11 to 17 years old, and traveled
from across the country to confront him at trial.
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 nude photograph or answer personal
questions about themselves. 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. If his 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.
“Ferris preyed upon some of the most vulnerable people in the community, children, by using shame
and fear to gain power over them,” said United States Attorney Rachelle Crowe. “Fortunately, those
minor victims and their families came from across the country to testify and hold Ferris
accountable for his disturbing demands. Discussions with children about their social media use and
who they can talk to about problems online helps to combat predators like Michael Ferris.”
“I commend those that bravely came forward to testify to help get Ferris off our streets and away
from other children he might harm,” said HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge R. Sean Fitzgerald.
“HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to work within our communities to aid and
assist victims of these crimes and bring the predators to justice.”
The investigation was conducted by agents from Homeland Security Investigations—Springfield with
assistance from Homeland Security Investigations domestic and international offices, Jackson County Oregon Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County Illinois Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, and
Aurora Missouri Police Department. Victim and Witness Support was provided by the United States Attorneys’ Office from the Southern District of Illinois, the Eastern District of Missouri, and
Homeland Security Investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ali Burns and Luke Weissler prosecuted the case.