A “calculated and manipulative” paedophile who hijacked a teenage boy’s social media profile and used it to groom and blackmail young girls has been jailed for 15 years.
Benjamin Reynolds, 30, posed as a boy on an internet chat site to trick youngsters into sending indecent images of themselves and to perform sex acts on webcams.
Warwick Crown Court heard the twisted pervert created fake Skype profiles using a teenage boy’s bio, plus photos ripped from his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
He then used them to manipulate girls – aged between 12 and 16 – after fooling them into believing they were messaging a teenager.
He even boasted to one victim “I get off on the power” during his campaign of abuse, which is believed to have lasted over 20 years.
Police say Reynolds was able to keep the girls quiet for two decades by threatening to share the intimate images among their friends and family.
But he was finally caught after one victim in the USA reported to officers that she had been groomed.
An email address linked to a fake Skype profile was then traced to an address in the Radford area of Coventry which officers raided on May 5, 2016.
Unemployed Reynolds was arrested and computer and media storage devices seized from his bedroom.
Forensic examination of the hardware revealed more than 23,000 indecent images of children and more than 300 videos dating between December 2007 and May 2016.
Detectives also found notes he’d written to himself including one that read: “Relax, you are never going to meet her you are never going to date her, if she knew who you were she would never be interested in you.”
In police interview, Reynolds, of Coventry, said he’d been accessing the internet since the age of 11 and using the online chat site Omegle since 2013.
But he claimed only to have used the over-18 section of the site and believed he’d only ever messaged adults.
Reynolds admitted possessing indecent images, saying he felt “disgusted” with himself and had initially stumbled across them out of curiosity.
Last Thursday (5/7) he was jailed after admitting three charges of making indecent images of children, five of inciting children to engage in sexual activity, one of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, plus four counts of blackmail.
After the case, Detective Constable Lindsey Seeley, from the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team at West Midlands Police, said: “Reynolds was very calculating and meticulous in maintaining his cover as a 14-year-old boy.
“We found notes he’d written as reminders of the lies he’d told, things like birthdays, what school he attended, friends names, where his parents live and their occupations.
“And when victims asked for specific images to satisfy themselves they were talking to the boy in the profile pictures, he blackmailed the 14-year-old into sending him more images, including one asking for a topless photo of him holding a green sock.
“He bullied and manipulated the girls to engage in sex acts and even asked one to send him indecent photos of her younger sister; some of his victims were crying in the videos and begging him to stop his depraved demands.
“He managed to exert a lot of control over his victims and returned to some months or even years after first making contact demanding fresh images.
“And he got away with it and kept the girls quiet by threatening to share images and videos online with their friends and family.
“Safeguarding children is our number one priority. We target people who view, share or download indecent images of children or who groom children in order to make indecent images.
“Reynolds has been handed a long jail term, it reflects the extent of his offending and the distress he’s caused to several girls.”
West Midlands Police’s investigation identified six victims – five girls and one boy, all living in the US – but it’s suspected Reynolds may have targeted many more children.
Det Con Seeley has now urged parents to play an intrusive role in their children’s social media use in order to keep them from harm.
She added: “Parents shouldn’t feel awkward asking their children what they’re up to online and who they’re conversing with.
“Perhaps have an agreement that they only use the internet in an overt manner, in the living room, rather than squirreled away in their bedroom.
“And ask whether your child really needs a webcam in their bedroom.
“If a child is persuaded to expose themselves in front of a camera then they’ve lost control of that image or video and it could be floating around online forever.
“You need to be absolutely certain who you’re talking to online – your son or daughter may believe they’re chatting with another teenager but, in reality, it could be someone much older with sinister intentions.”
Anyone who believes they many have been contacted online by Reynolds is urged to call West Midlands Police’s Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team on 101.
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