Story points to potential social networking dangers

The ongoing story concerning three Chillicothe men and a former local resident accused of involvement in a multistate sex trafficking ring operating out of Maryland serves to raise awareness of the potential dangers lurking online.

Wednesday, Robert Harris, 21, became the second suspect to plead guilty in a conspiracy to conduct a prostitution business from an apartment in Millersville, Md. Richard Johnson, 22, already pleaded guilty earlier this month, and both will now await sentencing early next year.

Other suspects whose cases have not been resolved include 23-year-old Craig Allen Corey, out of whose apartment the ring was allegedly operated, and 22-year-old Jacob Tyler.

According to information from the U.S. Department of Justice, Harris, in entering his plea, admitted to using Craigslist, MySpace, YouTube and other Web-based social networking and classified ad services to promote the prostitution business and advertise sexual services. The group used prepaid debit cards to pay for the online ads in an attempt to conceal their identities.

Among the 12 young women transported or enticed to come to Maryland from other states, including Ohio, was one who was photographed partially clothed and nude and was given an alias. The pictures and alias were provided in the Craigslist ads offering sexual services.

The suspects then shared in the prostitution earnings of the woman, with Harris admitting spending the money on illegal narcotics, jewelry, clothes and gold teeth, authorities said.

Also among the girls enticed to take part was a 16-year-old from Ohio, and several of the girls were still in their teens — one of the target demographics for many social-networking services.

The organization SafeFamilies is one of several groups concerned about what lurks in social media. On its Web site, SafeFamilies.org, the group indicates that the best way for parents of teens to ensure their social-networking experience is safe and enriching is to open a dialogue with them about their activities, teach some common-sense safety approaches and set some guidelines.

Among the group’s many suggestions for parents:

# Setting a minimum age of 16 before allowing a teen to participate in an online community.

# Creating a parental account on the social-networking site the teen is going to be using in order to familiarize themselves with how the site works and who might be on it.

# Requiring that your teen show you their account and making clear you will periodically be monitoring or reading it. Also make a condition of their use that they share their passwords with you.

# Removing online privileges at the first sign of trouble.

The organization also offers suggestions for teens in using social networking sites, including:

# Talking with parents so they can understand how social networking fits in with your life.

# Avoiding posts with any personal information or any information about friends, including phone number, e-mail or address that could lead you open to becoming a victim.

# Turning down any request to meet from anyone you’ve only “met” online and letting parents know if such a request was made.

# Only adding people to friends lists if you know them in real life.

The consequences of being careless online can, in worst-case scenarios, lead to becoming mixed up with situations like the one in Maryland.

Among the actions Harris admitted to in his plea was physically assaulting one young woman when she refused to share her prostitution earnings, standing by while one of the other suspects beat a woman who refused to continue prostituting herself, having his firearm used by another suspect to threaten a customer when a payment dispute arose and distributing narcotics to the women and sex and drug customers both inside and outside the state.

According to the Department of Justice, Harris’ activities didn’t end when he was jailed. From behind bars, officials said, he contacted and tried to contact several potential witnesses and, through the use of third parties, tried to get them to change their statements to law enforcement.

Harris, when he is sentenced Feb. 16, could face up to life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison for sex trafficking by force, five years in prison for a prostitution conspiracy, 20 years in prison for enticement and 20 years in prison for a drug conspiracy.

source: http://www.chillicothegazette.com/print/article/20091227/NEWS01/912270308/Story-points-to-potential-social-networking-dangers

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Published in: on December 28, 2009 at 9:09 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. […] An interesting post today. Here’s a quick excerpt: According to information from the U.S. Department of Justice, Harris, in entering his plea, admitted to using Craigslist, MySpace, YouTube and other Web-based social networking and classified ad services to promote the prostitution … Read the rest of this great post Here […]

  2. […] Story points to potential social networking dangers « Cjaye57's Weblog2 hours ago by cjaye57  According to information from the U.S. Department of Justice, Harris, in entering his plea, admitted to using Craigslist, MySpace, YouTube and other Web-based social networking and classified ad services to promote the prostitution … […]


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