Johao Miguel Chavarri faces up to five years in prison on each of the three counts of cyberstalking and is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Chavarri, who had used the alias ‘Michael Frito,’ had “stalked, harassed and threatened women,” Marine Corps Times had reported in February, mostly from his hometown of Torrance, California, while serving, according to court documents.
The lance corporal had cajoled, then pressured and later blackmailed women to send him, “nude, sexually explicit or otherwise compromising photos and videos of themselves,” according to court documents.
He would contact victims on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. At first, he would compliment their looks and then offer to pay them for photos or videos of themselves.
If a victim refused to send photos or sent images and later decided not to send more, Chavarri would use “numerous online accounts,” threatening to punish them by publishing the photos they had sent, sending them to friends, boyfriends, family members and employers.
He often included names of specific people he would send images, to further the threat.
In one message sent on Instagram to multiple victims, Chavarri said he would spend his “whole life” ruining their lives. He created fake social media accounts that mimicked some of the victims’ names, using those accounts to send harassing messages to the victims’ friends and family members.
Many of the Torrance, California, area victims knew each other, according to court documents.
Chavarri sometimes asked victims to send the photos via Snapchat so, as they believed, he couldn’t save the images or take screenshots.
Sometimes, Chavarri would send back images of an erect penis, according to court documents. He often claimed to be “Michael Frito,” a married man in New York who worked as an underwater welder.
A woman identified as “Victim A” told the FBI that beginning in mid-2019, “Michael Frito” began sending her harassing messages. The 25-year-old woman previously attended Torrance High School in California; the same school Chavarri attended.
The woman sent four photos of her feet in exchange for money. “Michael Frito,” said he’d pay more for sexually explicit images. She agreed and sent five photos and one video of her in her bra and underwear or nude. He later paid her approximately $480 through Cash App, court documents said.
A short time later, she told “Frito” she did not want to send any more images.
“Frito” used numerous social media accounts to send her harassing messages as well as text messages through Cash App.
“I’ll expose you to your family friends and boyfriend. I’ll send you videos of me deleting everything if you just stop,” “Frito” sent, according to court documents. “This is your last chance. All you have to do is accept my money and I’ll delete everything.”
When the woman blocked him, Chavarri created new accounts and continued harassing her, according to court documents.
“Fine then I hope you enjoy receiving them videos,” “Frito” messaged her, according to court documents. “And being put on porn hub. . .. And having your career ruined . . . I work on a vpn secure network. I will never get caught.”
To get the harassment to stop, the alleged victim sent another sexually explicit video. But “Frito” later told her, he “would never stop.”
“It’s been one year! What do you not get ! I’m never going to stop tormenting you,” “Frito wrote her, according to court documents. “Or you can take my 1000 and it’s a win win for everyone and you will never hear from me again. I tried FaceTiming you. I talked to my lawyer I’m not scared.”
For nearly a year, she didn’t hear from “Frito.” Then in spring 2020 he began sending harassing messages and threats again, according to court documents.
Chavarri had enlisted in 2018 and had arrived at Camp Pendleton, California, where he had worked as a 3531 motor vehicle operator with an unidentified unit in 1st Marine Division, according to court documents.
He was married in 2020, according to court documents. The files identify his then-spouse only by initials.
*Correction: This article has been updated with the correct date of Chavarri’s guilty plea, Friday, May 27.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.