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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 27, 2021

Vancouver, Washington area man sentenced to 20 years in prison for online sexual exploitation of teens

Defendant posed as a teen, and pressured victims across the country to send him sexually explicit videos; administered online child pornography exchange group

Tacoma – A Ridgefield, Washington, man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 20 years in prison and lifetime supervised release, for multiple federal felonies for his scheme to entice and pressure young teens into sending him sexually explicit photos and videos, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  Joshua Henry Punt, 39, pleaded guilty in April 2021, 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 in New York, Arkansas, California, Texas, Nevada, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

At today’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle said, “There are no words to express how serious this crime is.  The weight of the damage will go on for scores of decades – rippling through lives….” To Punt, Judge Settle said, “You could see the pain in those girls, and you continued to do it – to eight precious, innocent young girls – you tortured them.”

“This predatory defendant infiltrated our homes, using electronic access and social media to deceive, pressure and sexually exploit young girls across the country,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman.  “We warn our children about the ‘dangerous stranger’ they might encounter on the street – we must be equally vigilant about the ones who are lurking online.”

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.

At the sentencing hearing one mother said of her daughter, “She met a monster disguised as a boy, and her life will be changed forever…. She now knows what evil looks like.”

“Collaborative law enforcement work ensures child predators will not be allowed to weaponize online communication tools to fulfill their perverse desires,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “As HSI seeks to protect communities from child exploitation crimes, parents and their children should be especially cautious with who they are interacting with online.”

“Mr. Punt is a prime example of what is referred to as a ‘Sextortionist,’” said Special Agent in Charge Donald Voiret, FBI Seattle. “While he will be serving time in a federal penitentiary for his actions, I would encourage parents everywhere to engage with their children about the risks of online predators.”

Punt was arrested on May 21, 2019.  He 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. 

On April 27, 2021, Punt pleaded guilty to production of child pornography, enticement of a minor, distribution of child pornography, and advertisement of child pornography. Punt will be required to register as a sex offender following prison. 

The case was 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 also assisted this investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angelica Williams and Cecelia Gregson prosecuted 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.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Cyber Crime
Contact: 
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.
Updated September 27, 2021