A Clark County man who allegedly pressured young teenage girls into sending him sexually explicit images is now facing federal charges.
Joshua Henry Punt, 39, was originally charged in Clark County Superior Court, but his case was dismissed Wednesday and moved to U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
“Clark County prosecutors are working closely with federal prosecutors and determined the case was best pursued in federal court,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.
Punt is charged with four counts of producing child pornography and five counts of enticement of a minor. He used the messaging app Kik and Snapchat to contact girls across the U.S. between October 2018 and May. Five victims have been identified in New York, Arkansas, California, Texas and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“This defendant is the ‘dangerous stranger’ we all hope our kids never meet,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in the news release. “He is alleged to have trolled the internet, posing as a teen, and probing for vulnerabilities in those looking for friendship. What followed were threats, blackmail, and the horror of possibly having private moments put on display.”
Punt posed as a teenage boy to contact the girls and then convinced them to send photos that were sexual in nature. He demanded additional photos and videos, and threatened to distribute what he already had to the victims’ classmates or community if they didn’t comply, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.
In December 2018, a victim in New York went to the police, who traced the contact back to Punt. His electronic devices were subsequently seized and searched. His cellphone contained hundreds of sexually explicit photos and videos. Investigators are working to identify additional victims, the news release says.
Production of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years to 30 years in prison. Enticement of a minor is punishable by up to life in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The case is being investigated by the Vancouver Police Department’s Digital Evidence Cybercrime Unit and Homeland Security Investigations, with help from other law enforcement agencies.