Camp Pendleton, California-based Lance Cpl. Johao Miguel Chavarri faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted. Chavarri is a 3531 Motor Vehicle Operator assigned to an undisclosed 1st Marine Division unit, Marine officials confirmed.
Rank and unit information was not immediately available. But court documents describe Chavarri as having enlisted in 2018 and working in motor transport. He arrived at Camp Pendleton, California, in March 2021.
Chavarri also has been married since February 2020 to a person identified only by initials in court documents.
Chavarri used an online alias of “Michael Frito” from 2019–2021 on numerous online accounts, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California alleges in a release published Wednesday. Chavarri allegedly stalked, harassed and threatened women, mostly from his hometown of Torrance, California, near Los Angeles, to send him, “nude, sexually explicit or otherwise compromising photos and videos of themselves.”
Chavarri also specifically asked for photos and videos of the women’s feet, court documents note, pointing to at least six likely victims. Investigators are seeking information on other potential victims.
If they refused, he allegedly threatened to publish photos or videos of them on well-known pornography websites or distribute the material to the women’s friends, boyfriends, family members or employers. Chavarri, prosecutors allege, identified those relatives and colleagues of the victim by name.
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-area victims knew each other, according to court documents. One of the victims, who is not named in the court documents, was dating Chavarri at the time he allegedly was harassing women online.
The pattern, laid out in court documents, unfolded like this: Chavarri would contact a woman on social media, most often Instagram, and compliment their appearance. He’d then suggest a relationship in which he would pay the woman an “allowance” to send him photos or videos. Initially, he would ask only for images or videos of their feet.
But then he would escalate the requests to material more sexual in nature, according to court documents.
He asked them to send the photos via Snapchat so, as the victims understood it, he could not save the images or take screenshots.
In some cases, 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.
Some women initially agreed to his requests and sent him nude, sexually explicit or compromising photos, according to court documents. He then sent payment through Cash App, a mobile payment service.
But when the alleged victims refused his request initially or subsequent requests, he would begin to harass and threaten them, court documents say. He’d threaten to publish what they’d sent or threaten to contact, in some cases actually contact, family members of the alleged victims.
When women said they would contact the police, Chavarri said that the authorities would not be able to identify him.
Sometimes to get the women to comply Chavarri allegedly would insist they speak directly with him and then he’d delete the materials.
Chavarri used accounts with the “Michael Frito” alias on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram, court documents say.
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 she blocked him, he 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.”
“Frito” later sent threats, photos and demands to “Victim A” and her family, court documents say. He also threatened to post the materials she’d sent him on Pornhub.com.
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.
The prosecutor’s office is asking if anyone has information or might be an undisclosed victim in this case to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.
Earlier in February, in another military member case involving cyberstalking, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California released information the guilty plea of Navy Seaman Reinaldo Williams, who admitted in court to sending graphic, sexual images to a civilian woman and members of her family. He also posted sexually explicit videos of the woman on Pornhub, a well-known pornography website, without her consent.
Williams sent screenshots of the Pornhub videos to the woman’s niece.
According to court documents and testimony, Williams wrote a Facebook message to the victim on Oct. 11, 2020: “I know it all. Don’t worry about it the rest of the world will too. I felt your pain, now you’re going to feel mine…you will remember me no matter what.”
Williams is scheduled for sentencing on cyberstalking charges on May 2, 2022.
Note: This article has been updated to include rank and unit information for Chavarri, provided by Marine Corps officials.
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.