TORONTO — Police say a Durham Region woman is “shaken up” after learning that a 40-year-old Bowmanville, Ont. man was allegedly using her photo to lure an underage boy through social media.
York Regional Police Const. Andy Pattenden said the alleged identity fraud victim came forward to police on Tuesday to inform them that her photo was apparently being used by Donald Richards, 40, who has been charged with two counts of luring a person under the age of 16 by means of telecommunications. He was scheduled to appear in court in Newmarket Tuesday.
“She’s pretty shaken up over the whole thing,” Pattenden said in an email, adding that the woman declined to speak publicly about the alleged incident.
“Quite frankly we thought it would have been a random picture from somewhere else in the world.”
Police began their investigation in November 2015 after the mother of a 12-year-old boy from York Region reported finding inappropriate chats on his social media account.
Investigators determined the 12-year-old boy had been contacted on Facebook by a person posing as “Jennifer Jackson,” who initiated conversation with the boy by complimenting him on his appearance and asking him to upload a photo of himself.
Police said that as the chats and “online grooming activity” continued over time, they became sexual in nature. They then determined that Jennifer Jackson was a fake profile that was allegedly being operated by Richards.
On Feb. 11, police executed a search warrant at the man’s home, took him into custody without incident and seized several electronic devices.
Police said they believed the child’s name was obtained by the accused through his part-time employment at snack shops in various hockey arenas in the Oshawa area.
Investigators are concerned that there may be more victims who were contacted by the accused using the same Facebook profile name — Jennifer Jackson — and said numerous other alleged victims had come forward since Tuesday.
Police have released a photo of the profile picture used with the fake Facebook profile and are asking anyone who was contacted by that profile to contact police. Global News has not been asked by police to take the photo down.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the York Regional Police Internet Child Exploitation Unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7078, contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS, leave an anonymous tip online at http://www.1800222tips.com, or text your tip to CRIMES (274637) starting with the word YORK.
Police provided this list of arenas where Richards was believed to have been working:
With files from Simon Ostler
*EDITOR’S NOTE: At the request of the alleged victim, Global News has removed the photo of her from the story.
© 2016 Shaw Media