Sunday 21 December 2014

Man posing as teen girl on Facebook convinced boys to send explicit photos, court told

Declan Brennan

Published 25/06/2014 | 16:59

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A young man posed as a teenage girl on Facebook in order to sexually exploit boys, a court has heard.

The man, who was 19 at the time, convinced three boys aged between 13 and 14, to send him sexually explicit pictures of themselves and to masturbate via an online video link.

He later told gardai that he didn't think there was anything wrong with what he was doing and that he did it to explore his sexuality.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said that she would deal with the issue of publishing the man's identity at his sentencing hearing next October.

She remanded him in custody and ordered him to undergo further risk assessment by the Probation Services. Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, said his client is a young man with a full time job who has no previous convictions and who has not offended since.

Judge Ring said that details of fake social networking accounts used by him should not be published. Two accounts were set up as those of a 14-year-old girl and a 14-year-old bisexual boy. They used actual images of children randomly sourced through a Google images search.

The Dublin man pleaded guilty to three charges of exploitation of a child and two counts of defilement of a child at locations in Dublin on various dates between April and October 2012. 

Detective Garda David Nolan told Fiona Murphy BL, prosecuting, that in March 2012 the man set up the two false Facebook profiles and sent out random friend requests to males aged around 13 and 14.

Judge Ring described this as a “fishing expedition” in which he used photographs of particularly young teenagers to set up the fake accounts.

The man said he targeted these other users by searching random names and adding in those he liked or thought were “nice looking”. He denied their ages were relevant or that the age on the fake account was designed to attract young teenagers.

Around 350 people accepted the friend requests sent from the two fake accounts. The offender then began sending them private messages which began normally but would become more sexual.

In one case he convinced a 14-year-old boy, who has Asperger's Syndrome, to talk about his underwear and to later masturbate on a web-cam. The victim believed he was communicating with a 14-year-old girl.

The man asked this victim if he would “do stuff on camera” with his ten year old brother but the victim refused. He then asked the victim to masturbate on camera and the victim did this.

In another case the man, again posing as a teenage girl, received sexually explicit images from a 13-year-old boy and later threatened to publish them on Facebook if the victim didn't send more. The court heard the victim begged “her” not to and was crying.

Posing as a bisexual teenage boy, the man also began exchanging sexually explicit messages with a 14-year-old boy. When this victim suggested that he would be willing to sexually engage with a 20-year-old, the man contacted the victim using his real identity.

The man told the teenager he was aged 17 and they met twice and engaged in sexual acts. The man later told gardaí he thought this was ok because they both met of their own free will.

He said the victim had suggested doing some things and added: “We both agreed and nobody was forced”. He said he was a teenager and didn't consider himself an adult.

The offences came to light when the mother of the first victim checked her son's iPad and his Facebook messages and saw the sexually explicit conversations with the fake girl.

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