Anton Martynenko, a 32-year-old man from Eagan, Minnesota, pleaded guilty on Jan. 14 to federal charges of producing, distributing and advertising child pornography for victimizing at least 178 high school boys in a “sextortion” scheme.
Between as early as 2011 and November 2015, Martynenko posed as a young woman online to solicit pornographic images and videos from high school boys, according to his plea agreement, The Star Tribune reports.
At least twice, Martynenko coerced young boys to come to his home so he could perform oral sex on them. In one instance, he threatened to leak the victim’s nude photos if he didn’t comply.
Sexual misconduct charges were not pursued as part of Martynenko's plea agreement.
In October 2015, investigators found pornographic images of as many as 400 victims across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, some of which included identifying information.
Martynenko distributed the content he solicited on social media over 1,000 times.
Martynenko could serve up to 80 years in prison and owe $250,000 in fines for each count.
His attorney, Marsh Halberg, said Martynenko chose to plead guilty to make it easier for his victims.
“We won’t have to bring children to court to testify,” Halberg said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Kayser said crimes like this one are growing in popularity and the victims’ gender may have played a role in how the case came together.
“People don’t think boys can be victimized,” she said.
“The defendant in this case is charged with using social media to contact teenagers and convince them to create child pornography,” U.S. Attorney Luger said, according to a press release on the Department of Justice website. “I urge teenagers and young adults to be particularly cautious and highly skeptical when encountering strangers online.
“Unfortunately, there are far too many people who seek to take advantage of and harm our youth over the internet. We will continue to do all we can to stop them.”