A Chicago-area musician with a large following of teenage girls, who once publicly apologized for asking underage fans to “twerk” for him on social media, “enticed” two minors to film themselves in sexually compromising videos, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court Tuesday.
Internet celebrity Austin Jones, 24, of Bloomingdale, was charged with producing child pornography. He was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Jones chatted with one victim in August 2016 and with the other victim last month on Facebook and via iMessages, according to the complaint filed in Chicago.
The victim from August stated in a Facebook chat with Jones that she was his biggest fan; Jones repeatedly told her she was “lucky” to have his attention, and that she needed to “prove” that she was his biggest fan by producing the sexually explicit videos and sending them to him, according to the complaint.
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Jones also said in numerous text conversations that he knew the girls were underage and encouraged them to make sexual videos for him which included them dancing partially naked—and admitted as much to Homeland Security Investigators who arrested him, the complaint states.
“Jones is an Internet personality who has accumulated hundreds of thousands of followers on various social media platforms and some level of celebrity by posting music videos online in which he performs covers of other artists’ songs,” the complaint says. “Jones’ YouTube page has dozens of videos in which he performs other artists' songs, as well as some of his own original music. His videos have been viewed on the Internet millions of times.”
The complaint says that, based on a review of Jones’ social media accounts, the majority of his fans “appear” to be girls.
The two victims in the complaint are identified as Victim A and Victim B.
In a Facebook chat included in the complaint, Victim A asks Jones for reassurance that he won’t post a video she plans to send him anywhere, according to the complaint.
“Right. I delete them after I score them,” Jones responds, the complaint alleges.
After the girl sent Jones the video, the complaint says, he sent her more specific instructions, such as suggesting she is 14 years old while dancing, directing which ways to position the camera and saying, “We should spice up your outfit!”
After Victim A explained she felt tired and wanted to stop, Jones encouraged her to continue dancing and told her she was “giving up” and she should “take this seriously,” the complaint says.
The girl also told Jones she was uncomfortable with the idea of “showing you everything,” but said “maybe I should get a thong tomorrow,” before adding “my moms [sic] a little overprotective,” the complaint states.
Victim A also acknowledged that she knew Jones was 24 and he told her to “talk about your age the whole time” she was to dance for him, the court document says.
She sent Jones about 15 videos, the document alleges. Jones instructed her to delete all of the messages so Victim A’s sister, with whom she shared a phone, would not see them, the complaint states.
In a video sent on May 4 by Victim A, the complaint reads, the victim looks into the camera and says “Hey Austin, my name is [Victim A’s first name] and my butt is 14 years old.”
Jones and Victim B also acknowledge one another’s age in a conversation from August 2016, the complaint states.
“Wait… you’re 14?” the court document says Jones asked of the underage girl. “I seriously shouldn’t even be talking to you.”
When the girl asks why, Jones allegedly responded “I’M 23!!”
Jones also repeatedly told Victim B how lucky she was to have his attention and that she needed to prove she was his biggest fan and assured her “nothing is going to happen,” when she showed concern for getting in trouble, the document says.
“I bet you had NO IDEA when you met me that just 1 day later you’d get to show me your ------- how special do you feel?!” Jones asked the girl, according to the complaint.
Victim B sent Jones about 25 videos, according to investigators.
Authorities traced Jones’ IP address to his home in Bloomingdale.
Each count of production of child pornography is punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years.
Jones was ordered to remain in federal custody by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason until a detention hearing on Wednesday.
In 2015, Jones was accused of soliciting videos from girls “twerking,” prompting him to publish a response and apology on his Facebook page, which was in turn published by Alternative Press.
“Here's the truth: I NEVER asked them to do anything more than send a twerking video,” Jones wrote. “Nothing EVER went beyond that.”
A Change.org petition from 2015 with 9,096 signatures demanded Jones be removed from Vans Warped Tour after the first allegations surfaced. The petition links to videos shared on Twitter, purportedly of an unwitting Austin, as the singer solicits videos from fans and instructs them how to dance by demonstrating the “twerk” move.
Vans and a Jones' publicist did not immediately respond to request for comment on Tuesday.
If you believe you are a victim of sexual exploitation, you are encouraged to call the ICE Tip Line at 1-866-DHS2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. The hotlines are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.