COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Maryland man was convicted Tuesday of sexually exploiting two Ohio teens.
A federal jury in Columbus found 72-year-old Bernhard Jakits, of Annapolis, guilty of exploiting two Belmont County girls — ages 13 and 15 at the time — when he persuaded them to send sexually explicit photos and videos in exchange for money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In December 2018, Jakits convinced the 15-year-old victim to create pornographic images and send them via the messaging app TextNow, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. A month later, he repeated the process for both victims.
Although Jakits offered tens of thousands of dollars to video chat with the girls, both of them declined.
The Belmont County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into the 72-year-old in January 2019 after being tipped off to the potential abuse. Cell phone and other electronic data connected Jakits to the victims.
Jakits, who has owned homes in both Maryland and California, frequently traveled the world in his yacht after selling his yacht brokerage business, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He met the two teens through their mother, whom he reportedly paid to engage in sexual activity via video chat.
In January, a grand jury indicted Jakits on eight criminal charges: three counts of sexually exploiting a minor, two counts of coercing or enticing a minor, one count of making an interstate notice for child pornography, one count of receiving child pornography and one count of communicating between states with an intent to extort.
He faces a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and the potential for life in prison.