Active duty Marine cyberstalked women, threatened to post nude photos online

In this photo illustration, the Facebook and Instagram apps are seen on the screen of an iPhone on October 04, 2021 in San Anselmo, California.
In this photo illustration, the Facebook and Instagram apps are seen on the screen of an iPhone on October 04, 2021 in San Anselmo, California. Photo credit (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It started with compliments sent to women on social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Then, those compliments would turn in to requests for photos and videos.

Eventually, Johao Miguel Chavarri – also known as Michael Frito – would harass, threaten, and extort the women he initially sent compliments to and threaten to “ruin their lives.” At the time, he was an active duty member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Chavarri, a 25-year-old from Torrance, Calif., pleaded guilty to three counts of cyberstalking Friday for the “sextortion” campaign he waged from 2019 to 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

While court documents discuss three of Chavarri’s victims, the Justice Department said he “stalked and sent anonymous threatening communications to numerous victims.”

He would often use the name Frito to message women online, either complimenting their appearance or publicly posting their photos.
Chavarri would then suggest that he pay the victim for photos and videos. Some of the victims would agree and send him nude, sexually explicit, or compromising photos.

If victims “refused Chavarri’s initial request for photos, refused to send him additional photos or videos, or otherwise refused to continue to communicate with him online,” he would begin to harass them, said the Justice Department. He would also threaten and extort them using multiple online accounts.

Typically, he would threaten to publish sexual photos and videos of the women on well-known pornography websites or to distribute the images to the family, friends, romantic partners or employers of his victims.

According to a 2009 study, 25% of the 3.4 million estimated stalking victims were being monitored through technology such as email and social media. A 2017 survey by the non-profit organization Thorn found that 40% of sextortion victims met preparators online.

“The personal and psychological toll on respondents could be quite intense, and many respondents didn’t seek help due to embarrassment, shame and self-blame,” said Thorn of its survey.

Chavarri is expected to be sentenced Sept. 15 and he could face up to five years in prison for each cyberstalking count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Long Beach Resident Agency, investigated the case, with assistance from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said the Justice Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Restrepo for the Central District of California and Senior Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section prosecuted the case.

Anyone who believes they might be one of Chavarri’s victims or is aware of a victim in this case can contact the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office any time at 310-477-6565.