An East Aurora man arrested last week on a warrant from the State of Alabama on a charge of electronic solicitation of a child had met the Birmingham-area girl through an online gaming service, authorities in Alabama said.
“This case should serve as a warning to parents that the digital domain can be a fertile hunting ground for child predators,” read a statement from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “This suspect used an online gaming service to contact the teen and begin a dialogue.”
Police were alerted to the situation after the girl’s parents found sexually explicit photos and text messages from the man on the girl’s cellphone.
They learned that the man had introduced himself through an online gaming service and that he regularly interacted with her as they played games. He eventually obtained her cellphone number and email address, and began sending lewd and pornographic images.
The parents told investigators that the girl had been afraid to tell them what was going on because she was afraid they would think she had done something wrong.
Sheriff’s investigators tracked down the man to East Aurora. He was identified as Spencer T. George, 46. A warrant was issued from Alabama, and authorities there contacted the East Aurora Police Department. George was taken into custody Wednesday morning and is expected to be extradited.
Alabama authorities offered some tips to parents to prevent such situations, including:
• Communicate with your child about what is acceptable online behavior. Encourage the child to let you know if someone sends explicit messages or photos.
• Adjust online gaming settings to prevent your child from adding friends or talking with strangers.
• Check the “friends lists” of all accounts. If you see people you do not know, ask your child who they are and how they know them.
• Know the user names and passwords to your child’s online accounts.
• Monitor your child’s cellphone use. Periodically check the child’s phone for threats to safety. Your duty to protect a child outweighs privacy concerns the child may have.