This story is courtesy of our sister station WOODTV in Grand Rapids, MI.
IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Police in Ionia say a teen tricked other juveniles into sending inappropriate photos of themselves by posing as a girl — a case they say should serve as a warning for parents about watching their kids’ online behavior.
According to the Ionia Department of Public Safety, it started when with the Facebook page of someone calling themselves Danielle and claiming to be 15.
“I am moving to Ionia soon. Just trying to get to know some people,” one post read.
The so-called Danielle made contact with teenage boys and then lured them into sending an increasingly provocative series of photos over the Internet.
“Maybe you could send me some pictures with your shirt off and I could send you some with my shirt off,” a message reads.
Eventually, at least one victim sent nude photos of himself.
But there was no Danielle. Police say a male teen from the area faked the Facebook profile.
Ionia DPS Detective Sgt. Cory McDiarmid has been investigating since November. After serving search warrants to Facebook, Internet service providers and cellphone companies, he learned that the situation had snowballed.
“This is not one case. This happened to several juvenile boys in the Ionia area,” McDiarmid said.
The fake Danielle told dozens of boys that if they did not comply with increasingly lewd requests, the images they had already sent would become public. That was not an idle threat.
In one teen’s case, the so-called Danielle “posted them right up to Facebook and then tagged that person’s friendship circle,” McDiarmid said.
Police say if one of the victims had not come forward, they may have had a more difficult time getting to the bottom of the case. They say they have found and talked to the teen who was posing as Danielle.
“He indicated to us that this was done as a sort of revenge as he had sort of been bullied by all of these people,” McDiarmid said.
Police don’t buy that.
They have completed their investigation and forwarded it to the Ionia County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine if and what criminal charges are appropriate.
Ionia Public Schools sent home a note last November urging parents to watch what their children are doing online. Police agree.
“People, be aware. There’s a lesson to be learned here,” McDiarmid said.