Since the advent of the internet, people have always cited the relative "anonymity" that it provides as both a strength and a danger. Are people really who they say they are? Anyone who's a member of any online community knows how easy it is to falsify information about yourself. Remember the running joke back when chat rooms were still popular? That hot 18-year-old girl you're talking to probably looks like Danny DeVito, right?
One man in Pennsylvania is being charged with 68 felony counts after he went to painstaking lengths to manipulate underage girls through a series of fake Facebook accounts.
According to Attorney General Linda Kelly, the investigation into the activities of William R. Ainsworth began back in September of 2011, after he was arrested for attempting to engage in sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl. After he was arrested, they found that this one lascivious meeting was just the tip of the iceberg. After combing through thousands of online communications, performing 18 searches, and interviewing over 30 children, the state has put together one hell of a story about Mr. Ainsworth.
"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."
Here's how Ainsworth allegedly constructed his webs of lies:
First, he created two fake Facebook profiles - Bill Cano and Anthony "Riip" Navari. He built up both profiles by creating a network of friends with people in the greater Pittsburgh area. Both of his characters were young surfers who had dropped out of high school and ran away to Florida. He supposedly bolstered the believability of his characters by taking images from around the internet.
Apparently, he amassed over 600 friends between the two fake profiles.
He then used Bill Cano to make contact with young girls. Once he had manipulated them by gaining their trust over a period of time, he would get them to send him nude and sexually explicit photos.
But that wasn't enough. Here's where the story takes an even darker turn.
Once Ainsworth had established a community of girls that cared about Bill Cano, he killed him off. Then comes "Rip" Navari, who swooped in posing to be Bill's step-brother or best friend. He told the girls that Bill had been attacked and killed. It's pretty easy to see how young girls could get wrapped up in all of this.
Ainsworth then put a third fake character into play, named Glenn Keefer. Keefer's profile said that he was a "Sugardaddy looking for Sugarbabies," living in the Pittsburgh area. Ainsworth used Rip to introduce the girls to Keefer. The story was that if they stripped or performed sex acts with Keefer, then he would give money to Rip so that Rip could help the girls fly down to Florida to be with him.
All in all, Ainsworth's web tangled up 7 victims from the ages of 13-15. Five of those girls ended up sending nude photos and he actually met with two of them (posing as Keefer) for the purposes of sex.
This is a pretty intricate fake identity scam, and if found guilty, Ainsworth is going to pay a heavy price for it. You always hear about stuff like this, and how it could happen. But it's very rare to see something surface that's this elaborate. The internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time - but damn, it can be cruel.