BENTON, Ill. – A man from rural Illinois was sentenced to 75 years in federal prison on Monday after being found guilty last fall of an online sextortion scheme that targeted underage girls.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois said Michael Ferris, 44, was convicted in November 2022 on 25 counts of extortion and cyberstalking, as well as the production, distribution, and possession of child pornography.

According to court documents, Ferris made fake Facebook accounts posing as a teen girl. He would join Facebook communities for teenagers and sexual abuse victims. Ferris sent unwanted messages to girls by pretending to be a teen looking for a new friend.

If the teens answered, Ferris tried to get them to send him a nude picture of themselves or answer personal questions. Ferris would use this information to coerce the girls to send him more sexually-explicit pictures, ask more questions, or perform on a video chat.

Ferris followed and scared his victims until they gave in or begged him to stop. If they didn’t, he threatened to send their pictures or answers to personal questions to their friends, parents, the police, or child protective services.

Even when his victims agreed, prosecutors said Ferris would often send sexually-explicit pictures of them to friends and family anyway.

Prosecutors said Ferris operated this scheme from at least March 2020 until November 2020. His victims ranged from 11 to 17 years of age.

Following his prison sentence, Ferris will serve the remainder of his days on supervised release.