HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has issued a search warrant to identify a person who recently coerced a ten-year-old boy to pose nude on Facetime. The internet predator crime occurred between July 20 and August 25, according to the search warrant’s affidavit.
Through Pinger, a California-based telecommunications company, the minor victim and his friends were connected in a Sony PlayStation chat room. A suspect who called himself “Raymond” imposed on the friends’ conversation and threatened to hack their online gaming systems if they attempted to remove him from their chats. The suspect then told the minor children their home addresses. The children successfully ousted “Raymond” from the chat room, experiencing connection problems thereafter, but later in the evening he left an unfamiliar number for the ten-year-old victim to call. When the victim made contact, he was told he was talking with “Raymond” who then threatened to shut down his home’s internet and come to his house if he dared hang up. The victim asked “Raymond” what he must do to be left alone. “Raymond” replied that he must engage in a Facetime call. When the victim called the number he was given, he could not see anyone. The camera was directed at the ceiling. “Raymond” then instructed the victim to remove all his clothing. The victim complied out of fear of consequences.
No further contact was made by “Raymond” to the victim until August 24, at which time the victim’s mother communicated with the suspect. She was told that nude screenshots of her son were in his possession. When she indicated she was calling the police, “Raymond” hung up.
The search warrant seeks information from Pinger to discover “Raymond’s” true identity.
According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, only 33% of households have taken measures to protect their children from internet predators by using blocking or filtering technologies.
FBI Special Agent Kevin Kaufman works in the Violent Crimes Against Children, Human Trafficking Unit of the agency’s Tampa Division. He was asked where nude photos of children are posted and used, and for what purposes. He replied, “The majority of perpetrators are pedophiles who trade their photos with other pedophiles, but we know of a Nigerian scam that generates revenue from these photos. These are crimes of sextortion which victimize boys as often as girls.” But he warned that the photos are also used to trick children into thinking the online predator is a similar-aged child who has posted nude photos, some which involve sexual acts. The predator then says to victims, “Gee, I’ve done it, why aren’t you doing it?”
Kaufman usually gives presentations in schools and other organizations, but due to COVID-19, the effort to educate parents and children has been restricted. When asked what is most important for them to understand, he explained, “In the local area, this crime is a constant problem. Parents mistakenly think, oh, it might happen to somebody else but it won’t happen to us, but I recently met with a parent who thought just that after one of my presentations, only to have his child victimized thereafter.” Kaufman said parents need to realize that apps, online gaming and social media provided to children without proper education is like dropping off your two-year-old at the park and saying, “Now, don’t let anybody kidnap you.”
Kaufman further stated, “If a product is known as a kid-friendly application, know that this is where the predators go. They get ready access to children’s names and addresses through these apps. ‘Kid-friendly’ does not always mean safe. Also, predators move children away from these kid-friendly apps to a different app to exploit the child.” Kaufman added that parents don’t realize the child keeps asking for apps because sometimes, a predator is involved.
Once a child is victimized, they fear being punished and frequently don’t tell their parents what has happened. But Kaufman suggested parents first see the child as a victim and call the FBI or local police.
“This problem is not going to go away,” Kaufman ended. “Parents and society need to know that.”
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