AG: Pa. man’s Facebook ‘surfer’ page lured teens

0
17

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A married father used phony Facebook profiles to pose as two different Florida surfers to solicit sexually graphic messages and photos from seven teenage girls in western Pennsylvania, and two of the girls eventually agreed to meet for sex with the surfers’ middle-aged “friend” — yet another fake persona he used, the state attorney general said Friday.

William R. Ainsworth, 53, of Mars, was charged Thursday with 68 counts, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and multiple counts of charges that include attempted unlawful contact with a minor, possession of child pornography and criminal use of a computer.

Ainsworth is already in jail in Butler County, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, after he was arrested on similar charges in September, when authorities say he traveled to the home of a 14-year-old girl for sex.

“We quickly discovered that there was much more to this case than the sexual solicitation of one girl,” Attorney General Linda Kelly said in a state before a news conference Friday. “What we found was an intricate web of false Facebook identities that were used to establish online relationships with vulnerable girls, who were then manipulated into sending nude photos to Ainsworth.”

Authorities said the psychological manipulation included messages indicating that the first surfer was killed, so the girls would be more sympathetic and likely to comply with requests from the second “surfer,” who typically introduced the girls to a friend named “Glenn Keefer.” ”Keefer” was essentially Ainsworth’s alter-ego, a 50-something man from Pennsylvania who would offer the girls money for pictures or sex so they could run away to join the surfers, investigators said.

The phony Facebook pages have been taken down, and the girls are not identified in the 68-page criminal complaint. The alleged victims were 13 to 15 years old, although one girl was 12 when the computer contacts began, Kelly said.

“Given the nature and extent of the psychological manipulation, we’re being extremely careful not to re-victimize these girls,” said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Kelly. He confirmed that Ainsworth is married with children, but would not provide other details.

Ainsworth does not have a phone number listed at the address on the criminal complaint. One other listing for his name in Mars led to a business, where a message was not immediately returned. Ainsworth’s public defender also didn’t immediately return comment.

Ainsworth allegedly posed as surfers “Bill Cano” and “Anthony ‘Rip’ Navari,” and it was the Cano persona who typically first contacted the girls through Facebook, authorities said. Cano claimed to be a runaway from the area, and sometimes claimed to have previously attended their school. Sometimes, though, Cano was contacted by girls he didn’t solicit who saw his profile on their friends’ Facebook pages. Altogether, prosecutors said Ainsworth’s phony profiles garnered him more than 600 Facebook friends.

Cano would ask the girls about their family or school problems and, eventually, allegedly flirt with them or ask for nude photos. Although the charges pertain to just seven girls, investigators have interviewed more than 30 and have gotten more than 18 search warrants to access records of his online contacts with them.

Ainsworth allegedly copied photos of surfers and young men which he passed off as Cano and Navari; Navari would eventually begin contacting the girls as a fellow surfer and sometimes even step-brother of Cano, authorities said. At some point, Navari would tell a girl that Cano was attacked by a mob, in a coma and died.

Once the girls were emotionally attached, Navari would then introduce them to Keefer who, himself or through Navari, would promise to either send the girls money to run away — or send money to support Navari’s living expenses — in exchange for nude pictures or sex.

The Keefer character introduced himself to the girls as a “Sugardaddy looking for Sugarbabies.”

Kelly said the parents of most of the girls didn’t closely monitor their Internet habits and noted some of the girls frequently accessed Facebook away from home. All of the girls were vulnerable due to issues ranging from divorce and custody disputes, substance abuse, or bullying, and Ainsworth exploited those concerns, Kelly said.