Guilty plea earns man 25 year sentence in federal 'sextortion' case

(Source: U.S. Attorney's Office)
(Source: U.S. Attorney's Office)

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A Federal Judge sentenced a Charlotte, North Carolina man to 25 years in a case of "sextortion" involving a New Orleans area university student.

According to court documents, it began in 2011 when John Michael Fowler met the 16-year-old victim and developed a sexual relationship.

When she tried to end the relationship, they say Fowler threatened to send sexually explicit pictures of the victim to her school and family. The threats worked. The relationship continued until the victim enrolled in a university in the New Orleans area and moved away in 2013.

Even then, prosecutors say Fowler continued to harass the victim with threats to harm her friends and siblings. They say he sent sexually explicit pictures of her to classmates at school. He sent e-mails to four of her classmates describing the victim as a prostitute and mentally unstable.

In August of 2014, the FBI got involved. A special agent assumed the victim's identity and used her phone to correspond with Fowler. Court documents indicate Fowler promised not to hurt the victim's sibling as long as he could come to New Orleans and have sex with her. The FBI arrested him when he arrived.

Investigators discovered even more evidence of sexual victimization of children and coercion when they searched his cellular phone and e-mail account.

The search revealed a second victim, a 15-year-old boy in Charlotte.  They also discovered Fowler had downloaded numerous images and videos of child pornography.

Fowler pleaded guilty to engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, distribution and receipt of images depicting the sexual victimization of children, transmitting in interstate communications with the intent to extort, and coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.

"We thank the FBI and the Charlotte Police Department for their outstanding work in this case," stated U.S. Attorney Polite in a news release. "Today's lengthy sentence reflects our commitment to protecting our young people from sexual exploitation."

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle sentenced Fowler to 300 months in prison, followed by ten years of supervised release. Fowler will be required to register as a sex offender.

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