Police in Australia have urged fans of Canadian pop star Justin Bieber to be extra vigilant when online after charging a man for posing as the singer and soliciting explicit images from young children.
Detectives from Australia’s Argos task force, a branch of the Queensland Police Service which investigates the exploitation of children on the internet, said the man has been charged with 931 child sex offences.
The 42-year-old suspect, who police claim posed as the popular singer, used several online social media platforms including Facebook and Skype to communicate with and groom his victims.
A large amount of child exploitation material is alleged to have been found on his computer, the contents of which, police say, go as far back in time as 2007.
Some of the victims were younger than 16 years old.
Police investigating the matter said they levied further charges including rape, indecent treatment of children, making child exploitation materials, using a carriage service to procure a person under 16, and using a carriage service for child pornography material, in a case Detective Inspector Rouse said is “frankly horrendous” in scale.
“This investigation demonstrates both the vulnerability of children that are utilising social media and communication applications and the global reach and skill that child sex offenders have to groom and seduce victims,” Rouse said in a statement. “The fact that so many children could believe that they were communicating with this particular celebrity highlights the need for a serious rethink about the way that we as a society educate our children about online safety.”
One Australian news outlet says the man in question is a Queensland University of Technology law lecturer.
Police arrested him and raided his home in November last year thanks to a tip from German and US authorities.
Daniel Angus, an expert in social media, speaking to the Associated Press, said it is easy for an online impostor or predator to appear as someone they are not.
“There’s essentially a lot of information online, photos, and other materials that people can use to build fake online profiles, and so yes these days it is incredibly easy for people to actually create these kinds of profiles,” Angus said.