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Predator faces 30 years in prison for sextortion of underage girls

Even after his initial arrest, Robert Pritchett continued to prey on underage girls.

By the time he was arrested again more than a year later, four girls had fallen victim to the man who used social media and fake identities in an effort to sexually exploit them.

On Monday, Pritchett admitted victimizing the four girls, who ranged in age from 14 to 17, as part of a plea deal that could send him to prison for 30 years.

Pritchett, 21, pleaded guilty to producing child pornography. But as part of his agreement with federal prosecutors, he also admitted forcing one of the girls, a 17-year-old from New Jersey, into prostitution.

The other girls, all of them from Buffalo or East Aurora, were the victims of "sextortion," according to prosecutors. They claim Pritchett used messaging sites popular with teens to connect with his victims and ultimately coerce the girls into sending photos of themselves to his phone.

"On that phone, minor females were found in sexually explicit poses," Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango said Monday.

The FBI, which led the investigation into Pritchett, says the case is one more reminder of the dangerous relationship between teens, social media and sexual predators.

Arrested in July 2014, Pritchett was charged with raping a 15-year-old but made bail and remained free until his second arrest in early 2016 on federal child pornography and sex trafficking charges.

When a federal judge complained about Pritchett's time on the streets, Cheektowaga police said they believed the original case was strong enough to prosecute and convict him.

The Erie County District Attorney's Office declined to comment at the time but indicated the defense’s frequent requests for adjournments contributed to the delay in prosecuting Pritchett.

In the federal case, Pritchett will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum penalty of 30 years when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo.

Pritchett also could face civil commitment as a "sexually dangerous person" after his prison sentence is complete.

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