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Online dating: A ‘catfish’ fry on the rise?

Tony Hobday
Written by Tony Hobday

Following the recent arrest of a Saratoga Springs, Utah ex-police officer July 27 for unlawful sexual contact with a minor, Officer Aaron Rosen, 46, of South Jordan, claims he was “catfished” by the 16-year-old boy. An excerpt of Rosen’s Facebook post (since taken down) follows:

In these cases, I’m clearly aware these are tried in the public and are typically ruled “guilty until proven innocent”. However, there are some things that weren’t covered in the story:

*I was CATFISHED. (If you don’t know what that is… Look it up.)

*The guy presented himself to me as a: 23-year-old college student, who worked full-time, and lived with his “roommates”.

*He reached out to ME first, on the social media app.

*He invited ME to visit him at his apartment, while his “roommate” was “at work.”

*I did not EVER admit to ANY sexual contact with the guy; unlike the story reports. And since it seems I’m to be tried by the media… Let’s be clear: I’m eager to go to trial! All this is saved in my chats in the app, and it shows him posting his identity as 23.

*When his “roommate” pulled-up, the guy said, “you hafta run!! Get out over the balcony!” I asked him “WTH is going on? Is this a boyfriend?!”

*Being LGBT is tough as it is. But trying to meet and date good people sometimes, is harder! People need to realize juveniles catfishing, for whatever reason (dating, money, attention, etc), is VERY common. TOO common.

*He misrepresented himself. And thank goodness things didn’t get any further! But juveniles (and it’s BOTH boys & girls); they need to know that this has lasting effects on people’s lives.

I will get through it. I just need support. Now, I will see who my TRUE friends are.

In the Aug. 2, 4th District Court hearing, Rosen was charged with “one count of class A misdemeanor unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old after he allegedly went to the teen’s home last week, kissed him and touched the teen inappropriately over his clothing.”

He told KUTV News “In this day I’ve lost my job of 20 years. I’ve most likely lost a job offer that was pending. I’ve lost my residence, I was evicted … This day has been one of the darkest of my life.”

In another expedition, earlier this year, David Jones, 18, of Pennsylvania, was arrested for catfishing more than 130 boys to get them to send him nude photos of themselves. Jones posed as a girl named “Haley” on various apps such as Snapchat and Instagram to reach out to the boys, some of whom were in middle school, news station WDAU reported. He stole the identity of a real Haley by using her photos from Tumblr. Jones also then threatened the victims that he would post and send the nude images to others if they didn’t keep up the sexually-explicit correspondence. In one instance, he allegedly sent explicit images to the victim’s family and friends to shame him. 

Jones was charged with distribution of child porn, corruption of minors, harassment, stalking and other crimes. Bail was set at $50,000.

In May, a North Carolina high school teacher was catfished by a modern day, tech savvy Bonnie and Clyde of sorts. Brittney Luckenbaugh and Brian Anderson, both 16, posed as a 35-year-old man on the gay-dating app Grindr, where they interacted with David Laughinghouse, 51, a French teacher at Swansboro High School. The duo convinced him to send intimate and compromising pictures, which they then shared with their classmates. 

The teens were then arrested for “knowingly disclose an image of another person… without the affirmative consent of the depicted person.” They were released on $5,000 bail. Laughinghouse was suspended from work during the investigation; however, his reinstatement found him transferred to a media lab at another school to teach remotely.

“He’s still being punished after becoming a victim,” reads a Change.org petition. “A source close to Mr. L says that he is devastated by this decision. This ’compromise’ effectively isolates him from his support system.” 

Facebook is testing a new feature in that could stop someone from stealing another person’s identity. The tool gives users more say over who can download and share their profile pictures. It is also looking into ways users can more easily add designs to their profile pictures. Based on its preliminary research, people are at least 75 percent less likely to copy a picture when it has an extra design layer.

Android users will also be blocked from taking a screenshot of a user’s profile picture on Facebook. It’s unclear as of now if the feature will eventually roll out to iOS device users.

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Tony Hobday

Tony Hobday

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