Tuesday 26 September 2017

US sex offender who groomed children over the internet had 'at least four Irish victims'

Blake Robert Johnson
Blake Robert Johnson

Rebecca Lumley

A sex offender who was found to have been grooming more than 100 girls over the internet had at least four Irish victims, it has been revealed.

Blake Robert Johnson, from Martinez California was sentenced to 30 years in prison earlier this year on charges of traveling across state lines with the intent of engaging in sex with a minor, as well as a host of child pornography charges.

In a report by RTE Radio One show, This Week, journalist John Burke discussed Johnson’s history of sex offence and his link to Irish children

“Prior to that time he (Johnson) wasn’t really known to police in the United States, but then a 14-year-old girl in Oregon went missing. The girl’s mother handed her phone over to police. She was concerned that they use it in any way to find where her daughter went to.

“Police downloaded all manner of messages and images and so forth from the phone, and they found a pattern of messages with an unidentified phone number. They traced that number to this man, Blake Robert Johnson and within 24 hours they found the girl, they found her at his home.”

Johnson was charged for sex offences relating to that incident, but when police searched his property they discovered a large amount of disturbing materials on his computers.

“So the material that they found was actually in 500 separate folders, each with an individual child’s name and all previously unidentified children to law enforcement figures, meaning that they suspected that Johnson had actually targeted all of these children individually himself,” Mr Burke explained on-air.

“This lead to an investigation that spread across multiple jurisdictions, including Ireland and it was led by the US Homelands Security Investigation Agency.”

Johnson was found to have been in contact with children in 32 US states and more than six jurisdictions.

He used a number of apps, including Ovoo, Kik and Omegle to contact his victims and, according to documents from the trial, would target emotionally vulnerable young girls.

Johnson was the father of a teenage girl himself and was described as being “sophisticated at engaging young girls over the internet to engage in illicit sexually explicit conduct.”

He targeted vulnerable young girls and requested that they perform sexual acts, while also directing them to send the resulting photographs. It was also found that Johnson distributed a portion of his child pornography collection to other paedophiles.

To date, the US Government has identified 94 victims between the ages of 12 and 18, but expect to identify significantly more as their investigation progresses.

Of these victims, Burke reported that at least four victims are from Ireland, with one identified as being from Dublin, one from Meath, one who has yet to be confirmed and one who has moved between jurisdictions.

As the process of identifying victims is ongoing, however, it is possible that there are more.

“It’s only when all the victims are identified that we’ll have a full picture here of the potential number of victims in this jurisdiction,” Burke said.

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