SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KTLA) — A 20-year-old man who trolled for teen girls on Internet social media sites and hung out with younger boys so he could meet younger girls was sentenced to 15 years and four months in state prison today after pleading no contest to molesting 15 girls.
Michael Downs pleaded to 14 felony counts including lewd conduct with a child, unlawful sex with a minor and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of a minor.
Downs was charged in December 2011 and has been in custody since then in connection with the case.
As part of his sentence, he must register for life as a sex offender.
Authorities said Downs was between the ages of 18 and 19 when the crimes occurred.
They said he lied about his age, pretending to be 15 or 16.
He would meet the victims through social media, at malls and house parties. He also befriended younger teen boys to meet girls in their age group.
Sheriff’s detectives began investigating Downs in December, when a girl reported she was sexually assaulted by Downs earlier in the year, according to a sheriff’s news release.
The investigation led detectives to 13 other girls between the ages of 12 and 16, who said Downs had assaulted them as well, according to the news release.
Additional victims came forward in the days after Downs’ arrest, and authorities said they expected even more to surface.
The alleged sexual assaults took place at “various locations throughout the Santa Clarita Valley,” according to the news release.