Rockville Man Pleads Guilty to Sextortion Charges
BALTIMORE, MD—Marc Joseph Punzalan, age 20, of Rockville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to production of child pornography in connection with a scheme in which he met young girls through social media and Internet chat rooms and convinced them to send him sexually explicit photographs of themselves. When the girls told him they no longer wanted to send the increasingly graphic images he requested, Punzalan threatened to post the images online and/or tell the girls’ friends and families.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to Punzalan’s plea agreement, from January 2012 through January 2014, he contacted four minor female victims, between 12 and 16 years of age, and persuaded them to send him sexually explicit photographs of themselves, using cell phone applications, and Internet social media and chat messaging sites. Punzalan assumed the identity of at least one minor victim and used that victim’s identity to convince other minor females to send him sexually explicit images.
Each of the victims informed Punzalan at different points that she no longer wished to send him sexually explicit images. Punzalan responded to each girl by threatening to send the images to the victim’s family and friends or publicly post the images if the victim did not send him more images depicting increasingly graphic sexual conduct. Punzalan created social media accounts in the victims’ names and posted images he had received of the victims on those accounts.
As part of his plea agreement, Punzalan must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
Punzalan and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement Punzalan will be sentenced to 15 years in prison followed by up to lifetime supervised release. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled sentencing for July 1, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “resources” tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristi N. O’Malley, who prosecuted the case.