Online predator targeting students in Scioto County, Ohio
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WCHS/WVAH) —
Authorities in Scioto County, Ohio, have a warning for parents in the area. Police said an online predator has targeted seven students at Portsmouth West Middle School using Facebook.
Police said the person is located in the Middle East, and uses a Disney character, Prince Hugo, to identify himself online.
The person's Facebook says he is from South Carolina, but authorities say he is actually in the Middle East. He started chatting with a student at Portsmouth West Middle School through social media, identifying himself as a teenage girl.
"They had numerous conversations through social media, which later led to them talking where they could see each other FaceTime. When she started FaceTiming him, she realized that it was a male and said he appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s," said Detective Jodi Conkel of the Scioto County Sheriff's Office.
School leaders believe seven students were targeted.
Christopher Jordan, principal at Portsmouth West Middle School, said they found out that this person hacked into one of the student's accounts and was sending messages to other students. He said his first concern was student safety. While steps are in place to keep students safe, Jordan acknowledged this situation is out of his control.
"It becomes scary," Jordan said. "You hear things about human trafficking and children disappearing."
Conkel said the situation does raise serious concerns.
"Does he have people over here in the United States that they work together?" Conkel said.
On Friday, school leaders are planning a school assembly. During this time, they will have experts talk with students, one grade at a time, about safety on social media.
"Anybody can pretend to be anybody. You are behind a computer screen," Conkel said.
The detective said parents need to follow their kids social media activity closely as a matter of their personal safety.
Conkel said this is an active criminal investigation. Police said the man persuaded the girl to send a picture of herself to him, but since he is in a foreign country, it's unclear if the person can be charged.