PORTLAND, Maine — A 51-year-old Westbrook man was sentenced to nine years in prison for sharing child pornography while posing as the mother of a 10-year old girl and transmitting an extortionate threat during an appearance before Judge Jon Levy Monday in U.S. District Court.

Michael Van Eekhout also was ordered to undergo five years of supervised release upon completing his prison term, U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II said in a news release.

Van Eekhout pleaded guilty to the charges on Jan. 21.

According to court records, in late 2011, Van Eekhout, posing online under an assumed name, persuaded a woman to send him nude photographs of herself. He then told her that he would widely disseminate the photos unless she took explicit photos of herself and sent them to him. When she did so, he posted the photos online.

In April 2012, he threatened to continue doing so unless she sent him more explicit photos.

In June 2014, Van Eekhout, posing as the woman, sent an undercover federal agent a digital photograph of a naked prepubescent female. The next month, he was interviewed during the execution of a search warrant at his Westbrook home and admitted that he had sent the photograph and had pretended to be the woman.

The investigation that led to the conviction was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

“Child predators are finding more and more that anonymity in their online activities is a false notion,” Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigation Boston, said. Homeland Security investigators “will continue to use our unique authorities and expertise to find these predators despite their best efforts to hide their true identities,” he said.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. The initiative, which is led by U.S. attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute those who exploit children and to identify and rescue victims.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit justice.gov/psc.