A driving instructor in San Mateo was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for coercing teenage girls into producing child pornography, federal prosecutors said this week.
Johnnatan 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.
Zelaya committed these crimes between 2013 and 2022, and also admitted to having sex with at least two of the victims and even filmed himself having sex with a minor. According to prosecutors, he then distributed the video.
Zelaya recruited seven of his victims using social media and in person. Online, he would use sites such as Instagram to persuade underage girls to produce sexually explicit content. In person, he used the driving school that he owned and operated to find students to recruit. His crimes included offering to "manage" the sale of the girls' images by telling the victims about the content that his customers wanted, how much they were willing to pay for it, and how much money they could make through creating videos.
Upon his arrest in January 2022, Zelaya had at least 41 videos and 10 photographs of victims, as well as pictures of other unidentified girls, prosecutors said.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, one count each of receiving, possessing, and distributing child pornography.