INDIANAPOLIS — A Texas man has been sentenced to more than 23 years behind bars for sexually exploiting a minor by utilizing Instagram to deceive and entice an Indiana teenager to send sexually explicit photos and videos of herself to him.
In December 2018, Marcus Pettus, 37, of Texas, posed as a 15-year-old boy and began following the teenage girl on the social media platform. Not long after, he began sending her direct messages, including purported photos of himself which appeared to be "selfie" photos of a teenage boy.
The victim told Pettus she was 14 and in 8th grade. Eventually, Pettus enticed the teen to be his "girlfriend." He began directing her to send sexually explicit photos and videos of herself, instructing the victim how to dress, how to wear her hair, and whether to wear makeup. He also send the teen images of nude women posed in various positions and directed that she send images of herself posed in the same way. Pettus also enticed her to send photos and videos of herself engaging in sex acts, as well as engaging in acts of self-harm, such as choking or gagging. When she protested, he threatened that he would harm himself and manipulated her into sending more sexually explicit material.
Pettus was arrested after the teen and her parents reported the incident to law enforcement.
“This case represents any parent’s worst nightmare. The lengthy prison sentence should send a message that those who seek to prey on children—particularly those who hide behind the anonymity of the internet—will be caught and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Acting United States Attorney John E. Childress. “Protecting our youth from cybercriminals and sexual predators will always remain a top priority of this office.”
“HSI is dedicated to protecting our most vulnerable population against sexual predators,” said R. Sean Fitzgerald, acting special agent in charge, HSI Chicago. “This sentence sends an important message that we will not allow any crime against children to go unpunished and we will continue to work with our law enforcement and prosecuting partners to hold predators accountable for their actions.”
“The Hamilton County Metro Child Exploitation Task Force is thankful to our federal partners for allowing us to purse those that harm our children, regardless of where they reside,” said Fishers Police Detective Lieutenant David Flynn. “We will continue to work with agencies that help us best protect our children and keep our communities safe. With Mr. Pettus in prison, we have one less predator endangering our youth.”
Pettus will also serve 10 years of supervised release after his 281-month prison term and must pay $9,000 in restitution to the victim.