Online predator targets girls in Piedmont Triad

RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. -- It all started with a Facebook message.

Capt. Bernie Maness, with the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, said that was the case with all four victims, females in their late teens and early 20s, targeted by the same online predator. Three of them live in Randolph County.

"They have prey -- that they're hunting -- and it just so happens to be these young females," Maness explained.

He said the first case came in last year, the latest, just two weeks ago. The suspect does the same thing every time -- hacks into a Facebook profile and messages the user's friends, pretending to be the user. He tells the girls he's come across a modeling job that can be theirs if they send photos. First, he requests head and profile shots. Maness said it got more risque from there, asking for photos of the girls in their underwear, and finally, completely nude.

"It's only after they get the series of unclothed photos that they contact them back and say this isn't a modeling agency, if you don't send me more imagery I'm going to send it to everyone on your Facebook list," Maness said.

Maness said the suspect wasn't bluffing. In one case, he sent the photos to the victim's mother. He uses the pictures as blackmail against the girls in exchange for their Facebook password.

In one transcript of a Facebook conversation between the suspect and victim, the suspect writes:

"I'm not after your friends. I'm trying to go through the suggestions and pick a few here and there. I can't give you my name but I swear to you if you let me get it I won't mess with anything. I'm tryn (sic) to trick them like I did you but with your help. I need to do the talking."

Maness said the investigation is still very active and his department is urging other victims to come forward.

"Don't be embarrassed, we won't use your name or anything like that," Maness explained. "We want this person. This person will be held accountable and charged if we can identify them."