Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly today announced the filing of a series of felony charges against a Butler County man accused of using Facebook to operate an elaborate and disturbing false identity scheme that was used to solicit young girls for explicit photos or meetings for sex.
Kelly identified the defendant as William R. Ainsworth, 53, of Mars, Pa.
Kelly said the investigation by the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit began in September 2011, after agents received information that Ainsworth had traveled to the home of a 14-year old girl in Butler County in order to engage in various sex acts. Ainsworth was arrested at that time and held on numerous criminal charges related to that alleged meeting.
“We quickly discovered that there was much more to this case than the sexual solicitation of one girl,” Kelly said. “What we found was an intricate web of false Facebook identities that were used to establish online relationships with vulnerable girls, who were then manipulated into sending nude photos to Ainsworth – believing he was a young surfer living in Florida – or physically meeting Ainsworth for sex – under the impression that those sexual encounters would help raise money so the girls could run away to Florida to be with their new online friend.”
Kelly urged parents to use this case as a reason to have serious conversations with their children about online social networking sites like Facebook, especially concerning predators who may manipulate these sites to victimize children.
“It is important to emphasize that the people you meet online may not always be who they say, and may actually be looking for something far more than just ‘friendship’,” Kelly said. “The things you say, the photos you post and your other online activities may be twisted against you in a sinister manner.”
Kelly said that Ainsworth is accused of fabricating the Facebook personas of two young men, “Bill Cano” and “Anthony ‘Rip’ Navari,” who were both supposedly living in Florida as surfers after dropping out of high school and running away from their families. It is believed that Ainsworth copied numerous photos of young men and surfers from other social networking sites in order to support these fake Facebook profiles.
As part of the scheme, Kelly said that Ainsworth allegedly used “Bill” and “Rip” to initiate online friendships with young people from throughout the greater Pittsburgh area, nearly all of them female. She noted that Ainsworth accumulated more than 600 Facebook “friends” using the bogus profiles (The false accounts were removed at the request of the Attorney General’s Office during this investigation).
Initially, Ainsworth is accused of using the “Bill Cano” profile to identify vulnerable girls. In some cases, Ainsworth’s victims believed that “Bill” had attended their school before running away, while in other cases the victims responded to his online invitations because of multiple overlapping friends.
Kelly said that Ainsworth allegedly used Bill to “groom” potential victims; asking about their interests, complimenting them about their physical appearance and discussing problems with school or family members in order to establish an emotional relationship. “Bill” would then convince the victims to send him nude or sexually explicit photos.
A death foretold
|"Glenn Keefer's" Facebook page|
Kelly noted that after establishing connections with many young people as “Bill Cano,” Ainsworth enhanced the emotional manipulation of this scheme by orchestrating Cano’s death.
Using the persona of Anthony or “Rip” Navari – supposedly a step-brother or fellow surfer/friend of Bill Cano – Ainsworth concocted a story that Cano had been attacked by a group of people, was hospitalized in a coma, and eventually died as the result of his injuries.
“This fake death triggered an outpouring of sympathy and grief within the group of young Facebook users who believed that ‘Bill Cano’ was their friend,” Kelly said. “Ainsworth allegedly fueled this grief with posts on Cano’s Facebook page and using it as a mechanism to help his new persona establish even deeper connections with the victims.”
Kelly said that Ainsworth used “Rip” to introduce the girls to another fictitious character, known as “Glenn Keefer.” Keefer was supposedly an adult from the Pittsburgh area who identified himself online as a “Sugardaddy looking for Sugarbabies.”
According to the criminal charges, Ainsworth – posing as “Rip” – solicited potential victims to meet with Keefer for anything from stripping to sex. Supposedly, “Glenn” would send money to “Rip” if the girls would meet him, either to help Rip with his living expenses or to help the girls run away to Florida to be with Rip.
Kelly said that Ainsworth is charged in connection with alleged indecent contact involving seven different victims, ranging in age from 13 to 15. In five of the cases, Ainsworth requested and received nude photos of the girls and in two of the cases he allegedly met with the victims for the purpose of committing sex acts.
Kelly noted that some of the intended victims were as young as 12 when they were initially contacted.
Kelly said the criminal charges announced today are the result of an extensive investigation that involved interviews with more than 30 children, the execution of 18 search warrants and the review of thousands of pages of communications between Ainsworth and his alleged victims.
Ainsworth is charged with 68 felony counts including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, criminal attempted unlawful contact with a minor, criminal solicitation to commit unlawful contact with a minor, sexual abuse of children (possession of child pornography), and criminal use of a communications facility.
Additionally, Kelly said that Ainsworth is currently awaiting trial in Butler County on 13 other felony counts related to his initial arrest in September 2011.
Kelly urged parents to be aware of a number of online safety issues that were identified during this investigation:
- Several of the victims indicated that their parents had little or no awareness of their activity on Facebook or did not closely monitor their online communication with others.
- Many victims regularly accessed Facebook outside their homes, away from any possible oversight by parents, using cell phones and other portable devices.
- All of the victims had been experiencing stresses at home or school, ranging from parental custody disputes to substance abuse and/or harassment by peers. Those issues appear to have been used by Ainsworth to develop closer online relationships.
Kelly encouraged parents to stress the importance of not sharing personal information online, like full names, ages, addresses, phone numbers and school information
She added that children should always be especially cautious about strangers who approach them online.
She also encouraged parents to take time to closely review how their children are using social networking sites and to monitor their communication with others, especially with young teens who may not yet be sensitive to deceptive or predatory behavior involving online “friends.”
Kelly recommended that parents take the time to learn and understand the technology involved in social networking and online communications so they can properly screen these services.
Additionally, Kelly urged parents to frequently discuss Internet safety and security issues with their children, including the importance of telling a trusted adult if someone engages in inappropriate online activity, such as:
- Sexual discussions.
- Sending or requesting nude photos or explicit videos.
- Sending pornography or links to pornographic websites.
- Trying to arrange face-to-face meetings.