A driving instructor in San Mateo, California, named Johnnatan Zelaya, has been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for coercing teenage girls into producing child pornography. Zelaya pleaded guilty on May 4 to recruiting girls between the ages of 14 and 17 to create sexually explicit images for posting online, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The crimes were committed between 2013 and 2022. Zelaya also admitted to having sexual relations with at least two of the victims and filming himself engaging in sexual acts with a minor. He distributed the video as well.
Zelaya used social media platforms, such as Instagram, to recruit seven of his victims. In person, he utilized the driving school that he owned and operated to find students to exploit. He would offer to “manage” the sale of the girls’ explicit images, informing them about the content his customers desired, the amount they were willing to pay, and the potential earnings from creating videos.
Upon Zelaya’s arrest in January 2022, authorities discovered at least 41 videos and 10 photographs of victims, along with pictures of unidentified girls. He pleaded guilty to two counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, as well as one count each of receiving, possessing, and distributing child pornography.