Former YouTube star Austin Jones was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison by a Chicago federal court for asking underage girls to send him sexually explicit images and videos of themselves.
Jones, who is 26 years old, is known on YouTube for doing covers of popular songs. He has also performed on tour across the country. Jones had a large following on YouTube and his videos were popular among teenage girls.
The YouTube singer from Bloomingdale, Illinois, a suburb just west of Chicago, was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in 2017 on charges of producing child pornography. He admitted to messaging underage girls as young as 14 and asking them to send him sexually explicit images and videos.
According to prosecutors, Jones “preyed [on his victims’] youth, their vulnerabilities and most glaringly, their adoration of him.”
He was able to cajole some of the girls to send him pornographic images by telling them to prove to him that they were his fans, prosecutors said. He also enticed them with offers of a “modeling opportunity” and claimed that he could help them to gain followers on Instagram.
“At the beginning, get super close and say these lines: ‘Hey Austin, it’s [Victim’s name] and this butt is [Victim’s age] years old,’ and then make it clap for 30 seconds. Got it?” Jones reportedly instructed an underage girl victim on Facebook.
The girl eventually sent him 15 videos of herself dancing. In 10 of those videos, she reportedly exposed herself.
After Jones pleaded guilty in February to asking underage girls to make and send pornographic videos of themselves to him, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee sentenced him to 10 years in federal prison on Friday, according to CNN.
Prior to arrest on charges of producing child pornography, Jones had come under fire in June 2015 after he admitted in a YouTube video that he had asked some of his young female fans to send him videos of themselves twerking, although one of the girls told him that she was only 14 years old.
He gave them instructions about how to dance and pose in sexually explicit ways.
“Nothing ever went further than twerking videos,” he said in the YouTube video, according to CNN. “There were never any nudes, never any physical contact.”