Vancouver, Washington, area man pleads guilty to multiple federal felonies for online sexual exploitation of teens
Defendant posed as teen and pressured victims across the country into sending sexually explicit photos, then blackmailed victims into sending additional videos
Tacoma – A Ridgefield, Washington, man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to multiple federal felonies for his scheme to entice and pressure young teens into sending him sexually explicit photos and videos. Joshua Henry Punt, 39, pleaded guilty today to using the messaging apps ‘Kik’ and ‘Snapchat’ to connect with teens while posing as a teenager. Punt then enticed and pressured young teens to send him sexually explicit photos and videos. Victims have been identified across the U.S., including New York, Arkansas, California, Texas, Nevada, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
According to records filed in the case, Punt presented himself in his social media accounts as an attractive teenager by using profile pictures of youthful YouTube personalities. After innocuous preliminary communications with his intended victims, Punt demanded sexually provocative and/or sexually explicit photos and videos. Unbeknownst to his victims, Punt recorded their videos and images on a second phone. So, for example, when a victim believed she was sending a “snap,” which would automatically delete or notify the sender if an attempt was made to copy it, Punt surreptitiously recorded the images and videos for future use. When victims inevitably became uncomfortable with his behavior and attempted to exit the “relationship,” Punt threatened to send the videos/images to members of their local communities–including schools, coaches, and others‑‑if they did not comply with his demands which included production of additional sexually explicit videos and images. The victims range in age from 12 to 16 years of age.
PUNT was arrested on May 21, 2019, and was originally charged in Clark County Superior Court. He was charged federally on November 7, 2019.
In a separate investigation, the FBI identified Punt as the administrator of a child pornography distribution group on Kik. As an administrator, Punt actively patrolled the group – demanding that new members share content and banning those that failed to share child pornography. An FBI online covert employee followed links posted by Punt leading to a cache of child pornography.
Punt pleaded guilty to production of child pornography, enticement of a minor, distribution of child pornography and advertisement of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 26, 2021 and faces a mandatory minimum 15 years in prison and up to life in prison. U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle will determine the sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Prosecutors have agreed to recommend no more than 23 years in prison. Punt will be required to register as a sex offender following prison. Both the prosecution and defense will recommend that Punt be on supervised release for the rest of his life.
The case is being investigated by the Vancouver Police Department’s Digital Evidence Cybercrime Unit, in conjunction with Homeland Security Investigations. The FBI investigated Punt’s activity administering a site for the trading of images of child abuse and molestation. Law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions are also assisting this investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angelica Williams and Cecelia Gregson are prosecuting the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.