GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Hudsonville man who lured girls into “sexually aggressive” talks and coerced one to send multiple nude images has been sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison.
In addition to prison, a judge in Grand Rapids this week hit Austin Thomas Noel with a $2,000 fine and a $7,600 special assessment.
“Mr. Noel used social media to cast a wide net in search of girls and young women to sexually exploit,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a news release.
Noel made contact with hundreds of females, including about three dozen minors, investigators say. Throughout the chats, “Noel made numerous efforts to meet with the minors for sex,” the news release said.
The investigation got underway last year when the mother of a girl contacted authorities over disturbing Snapchat conversations between her daughter and a man later identified as Noel. He requested nude photos of the girl, who was about 13 years old at the time, and threatened her if she did not comply, federal court records show.
When the girl attempted to block Noel and change her Snapchat account, “Austin Noel got angry and the threats escalated,” according to a criminal complaint.
The girl told investigators she sent sexually explicit photos of herself to Noel and he reciprocated. They eventually met at a Muskegon movie theater, court records show.
Investigators determined Noel was in conversations with more than 700 Snapchat accounts, including approximately two dozen girls who ranged in age from 12 to 15 years of age, court records show.
“All the chats are immediately sexual and sexually aggressive,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Mekaru wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Noel, 27, in March pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. Court records indicate the pattern of behavior ran between 2019 and 2021 in Ottawa and Muskegon counties.