Decatur man sentenced to 45 years in prison for extorting minors to send him child pornography


URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A 24-year-old Decatur man will spend decades in federal prison after prosecutors say he coerced several minors across eight states to produce child pornography.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of Illinois, says Cornell D.A. Johnson, of East Division and North Illinois Street, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for his crimes.

Judge Michael M. Mihm says Johnson was a “ringmaster” who engaged in an “exercise of power” and preyed upon young and vulnerable victims for his own pleasure and satisfaction.

A press release says the Decatur man pleaded guilty in February last year, and he was arrested in February 2019.

Investigators say Johnson admitted to posing as female Facebook users and controlled several accounts. Detectives say he used the social media profiles to contact female Facebook users, and then enticed minors to send him sexually suggestive or sexually explicit photographs of themselves.

The release says that once Johnson got nude images of the minors, he threatened to embarrass them by posting them online if they did not give in to his demands for more photos.

“Among his demands, Johnson specifically directed the minor teenagers to sexually abuse younger children in their household to produce images,” says the release.

Prosecutors say Johnson was identified in more than 80 ‘Cybertips’ via Facebook from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They add affiliates with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force identified 17 minor victims in the case, who are aged between 4-17 years old.

Johnson has been held by the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest, the release says. He was ordered to remain on supervised release for life upon completion of his prison sentence.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Decatur Police Department; the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force; and, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations.

Vital assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, the Western District of Pennsylvania, the District of Arizona, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and the Western District of Wisconsin. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.

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