A Connecticut high school student is facing charges after "catfishing” nearly two dozen people online, many of them teenagers, posing as a young girl in order to convince them to send naked pictures and iTunes gift cards, according to police.
Police said the 16-year-old from Hartford created fake Internet accounts under the name of Casey Morales, a teenage girl claiming to be a junior at Francis High School in Meriden.
The teen told police he “lost count somewhere around 20 victims,” some of whom were as young as 14 years old. “Casey” asked the boys to send nude pictures on the photo sharing app Snapchat, then took screenshots and threatened to share them online if the victims didn’t pay up. He also demanded the victims masturbate for “Casey” on video chat but refused to show his face.
A number of the victims acquiesced and sent the teen iTunes gift cards, some of which he redeemed while at Glastonbury High School, according to police. One of the teen boys sent him two gift cards worth $80 and $50 apiece.
The Glastonbury school resource officer helped identify the teen as a suspect. Police said the teen later admitted to using fake Internet accounts to “catfish” other teenagers. He stored their nude photos on his iPhone but later deleted them because he was afraid his mom would see, according to police.
According to the warrant for the teen's arrest, the case came to light last June when a 15-year-old victim told his mother what had happened and the two went together to West Hartford police.
Internet safety expert Scott Driscoll said the case “unfortunately” doesn’t surprise him.
“When it comes to pictures, I have a very simple rule. If you’re not ready for the world to see the picture, you shouldn’t be taking the picture with today’s technology,” Driscoll said.
The teen has been charged with three counts of first-degree larceny by extortion, 16 counts of criminal attempt at first-degree larceny by extortion, five counts of third-degree possession of child pornography, 10 counts of promoting a minor in an obscene performance.
He pleaded not guilty and is due back in court May 21.