A Los Angeles man was arrested on 16 felony charges connected to an alleged Instagram scheme that saw multiple victims robbed, sexually assaulted and extorted.
Michael Neal Watson Jr. was arrested in the city of Lancaster on November 8 and is being held on $1.7 million bail after a months-long search.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s (LASD) Special Victims Bureau said they believe Watson was involved in at least 13 separate incidents, four with minors, since June 2020. LASD also believes that Watson was committing these crimes in different jurisdictions throughout Los Angeles County, mentioning incidents occurring in the cities of Walnut, West Hollywood and Inglewood.
“During our investigation, it was determined that this person, Mr. Watson, … was using social media. His platform of choice was Instagram and Snapchat,” LASD Sgt. Joe Ramos said in a press conference Wednesday. “He was very savvy to lure the victims in meeting them.”
Investigators further believe that Watson would take the alleged victims phones and pretended to be them in order to setup meetings with their contacts and sexually assault them.
“Every time he left a scene of an incident, he took the victims cell phones at pistol point, forced them to give up their user name and password and it just spiraled to additional victims,” Ramos said. ”
Ramos described Watson as “elusive,” saying the suspect seemed to know he was being investigated and avoided attempts by the bureau to serve warrants for his arrest.
Investigators have released photos of Watson in an attempt to find additional victims that he may have come into contact with.
Watson will see a judge on January 12, 2023 in the city of Compton.
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