GERMANTOWN, Md. (ABC7) — A cocktail of Snapchat, alcohol and marijuana allowed a 27-year-old man to rape a teenage girl 12 years his junior, Montgomery County Police allege in court documents obtained by ABC7 News.
Cesar DeJesus Vales II, 27, of Confederate Trail in Manassas, is charged with three counts of second-degree rape.
In June, Vales II randomly contacted the 15-year-old on Facebook. The two moved their conversation to Snapchat, launching a social media friendship. After some time, police say Vales II visited the victim's Germantown home on several occasions where they indulged in alcohol and marijuana.
On July 19, the 15-year-old girl awoke from a drunken slumber to Vales II allegedly raping her. It was 4 a.m. The teenage girl tried to push Vales II off her, but police say he continued to sexually assault, forcefully moving and contorting her body on the bed.
Later that day, Vales II reportedly contacted the high schooler via Snapchat asking, "Was the sex good? Be honest."
When the victim responded with harsh accusations of the reality of the situation, Vales II became meek and apologetic: "If you decide to hang out with me again, I will never do it again. I never do this it was mainly the alcohol," he wrote.
According to court documents, Vales II works as a courier for a Manassas company. He has a young child and lives with his mother. When reached by telephone for comment, Vales II's mother told ABC7, "hell no."
No attorney is currently listed in court paperwork for Vales II. Citing the severity of the charges, a judge denied bond. Vales II faces up to 60 years in prison, 20 years per charge of second-degree rape.
The Wild, Wild West of Modern Time:
“At any moment, at any given time, there are 50,000 sexual predators online," said Sergeant Kenneth Sanger of the Montgomery County Police Department's Child Exploitation Unit. "We’ve got to get through to our teens that strangers are strangers whether online or in front of your face.”
Part of Sgt. Sanger's job involves giving lectures to PTA and community groups. The 24-year police department veteran like to focus on parents of elementary and middle school kids to get ahead of the technology curve. During those detailed talks, he advises keeping children off Kik Messenger, Snapchat and Omegle.com.
Kik allows video chatting, texting and phone calls. As of October 2016, the app reported having more than 130 million users between the ages of 13 and 19. Child predators have come to learn that. In fact, Kik was the app former Prince George's County Public School aide Deonte Carraway used to exchange nude images and vulgar words with many of his students. Sgt. Sanger explains that because Kik is based in Canada, search warrants and subpoenas are not as effective, making investigations more complicated.
Omegle.com is a website that on its homepage, boasts about the ability to "talk with strangers." In the upper right corner of the page, the site lists how many people are currently online. It is typically more than 12,000 users strong. The site lets visitors launch live video chats with random people around the world. Within minutes of going onto the site, ABC7 was paired with an elderly man masturbating on a bed.
Snapchat has a younger clientele when compared to other social media networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Although Snapchat requires users be 13 or older to create an account, it is possible to lie about your age during the registration process. Consequently, many minors – some as young as elementary school – use it as their primary form of social communication.
Sgt. Sanger says predators use Snapchat primarily because their conversations, photos and videos disappear after a short amount of time. Additionally, the app allows users to link their phone's digital rolodex of contacts. In theory, a predator could find a child's phone number posted online, add it to their contacts and locate the teen's Snapchat account.
"Snapchat can be compared to the Wild, Wild West of the olden days," parenting website uKnowKids wrote in a 2014 blog post. "There are very few rules, no real way to moderate what is going on, and any evidence of inappropriate behavior is quickly wiped away. With no paper trail, and no way to trace what is being sent across the servers, parents can easily be taken off guard."
Sgt. Sanger explains most predators don't lie about their age when talking with minors online. Odd as it may sound, they don't need to. While there is no overarching suspect profile, a large percentage of predators are in their 20s and 30s. They are patient, charismatic and savvy. They also commonly use minors' social media accounts to find common ground, for example, a recent photo of the child at Disney World or their involvement in a club or school sport.
Research has found 16 percent of teenagers admit to being willing to meet a stranger in person. Eight percent have done just that, and six percent have done it more than once.
“The adults are primarily targeting our 12 to 15-year-olds, our middle school and young high school age, 75% [of the victims] are girls, and 25% are boys," Sgt. Sanger shared.
Studies performed by the Megan Meier Foundation, which works to end traditional bullying, cyberbullying and suicide, have found that around 60 percent of parents audit their kids' social media accounts. Approximately 35 percent know their children's passwords, which experts highly recommend. However, more and more kids are operating "underground" accounts to skirt around their parents' watchful eyes.
Companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft are trying to do their part too. They routinely scour their sites for photos, videos and conversations that appear to be indicative of child pornography. They then report those items to the proper authorities. Typically, Montgomery County receives five to 12 such tips each week, up 45 percent from 2015. Those leads can result in criminal charges such as possession and/or creation of child pornography.
“The workload is just getting more and more every year," Sgt. Sanger confessed. "At the playground there are a dozen kids playing and the creepy guy probably stands out, but online you can’t see the bad guys, so parents don’t give it as much concern as they should, but the numbers are far-far greater."