By: Jami Wittke Mound Police Department
In November of 2011, the Mound Police Department received a report from a mother regarding her minor daughter having contact with unknown males on the popular social media site, Facebook.
As the juvenile investigator, I began interviewing the minor female victim, hoping she was filing a false police report. As she was giving me details, I knew this case wasn’t going to be good, and was going to turn into something big.
In October of 2011, the victim reported getting a friend request from an unknown male who appeared on Facebook as a legitimate 20-year-old male from San Diego, Calif.
The male kept his Facebook account up to date, added new pictures of himself, chatted with friends, status changes with new girlfriends, and all in all just appeared to be this person he was portraying.
This guy worked the victim for only about 2 weeks and gradually won her trust. He knew all about the victim because of what she had posted on Facebook. He started telling the victim he loved her, wanted to send her tickets and backstage passes to any band she wanted to attend, and ultimately wanted to make her a model. He was in the photography biz, so he said and it was her dream to model. This predator was going to pay the victim cash if she’d send him pictures of herself.
Over the course of a few days, he talked the victim into "skyping" with him, only his webcam didn’t work so it was only one sided. She took off her clothes for him with the promise that money would be sent her way and she’d start her modeling career.
The very next day after skyping with the first male from San Diego, a second unknown male sent the victim a message on Facebook; only this guy was from Detroit, Michigan, according to his Facebook profile.
This second predator appeared to have a legitimate Facebook account too but not as elaborate as the male from San Diego. There were no pictures of the second male and only a few friends listed. He listed he was also 20 years old.
This second male from Detroit wanted to save the victim from being exploited on the internet. The second male told the victim he saw a nude video of her on the net and could take it off if she’d contact him. He even told the victim the same male from San Diego exploited his ex-girlfriend but luckily he was able to get that video off the internet before it circulated.
The victim then gave her phone number to the male from Detroit and he called her. The victim reported this second male started threatening her, telling her the nude video of her would be shown to her parents if she did not comply with him. This second male told the victim she needed to do with him what she did with the first male from San Diego in order for her video to disappear from the internet. She did.
In the course of the investigation, several search warrants were completed on email addresses, phone subscriber information, and Facebook accounts.
Through information obtained from the search warrants, we identified the suspect that listed himself as living in San Diego was actually in Arcadia, Calif., and the second one that listed himself as living in Detroit was actually in Michigan City, Ind.
The police in Arcadia and Michigan City were contacted and advised of what we had here in Mound. Both agencies ran full force with the investigation and, while doing so, they were being contacted by other states police agencies involving the same two suspects doing the same thing to other young females in their states. It was determined there could be numerous minor victims in several states.
As the investigators uncovered the real identity of the suspects, we learned the suspects were not who they said they were.
The suspect from Arcadia (San Diego) was not 20 years old, he was 24. He was posting pictures of himself on Facebook as a white male but he is black. The suspect from Michigan City (Detroit) was not 20 years old; he was 45 and had been doing this type of thing since 1996. He had posed himself on Facebook as a black male but is white.
These two suspects were working very hard together to find young girls to chat with and ultimately exploit.
Recently search warrants were executed at both residences and arrests were made on both suspects. Computers are being examined for forensic evidence as detectives try to identify as many young females as they can. Right now there are dozens of unknown minor victims.
Both parties arrested are facing several counts of Manufacturing Child Pornography, Distributing and Possessing Child Pornography. Their names have not yet been released to the public since the investigation is ongoing.
It is very important for parents to know what their children are doing on Facebook or any other social media site. It is not smart or safe to be "friends" with someone you don’t actually know first hand. It is smart and safer to keep your Facebook settings as private as possible so not just anybody can look at your Facebook page, all your pictures posted, your chats, your likes and hobbies, where you live, what school you attend or where you work.
It is amazing the information people put out there for the public and sexual predators know this. They work really hard when trying to find someone new they can victimize.
If you need internet safety tips for your children, feel free to call the Mound Police Department at 952-472-0621 or visit www.netsmartz.org/Parents.