HONOLULU (KHON2) — According to court documents, Hawaii resident, Gerardo Montes, was charged by federal authorities for cyberstalking, distributing and attempting to produce child pornography. Officials said, the victims range from 13 to 26 in Texas, Oklahoma, California and Hawaii.
Court documents show, Montes posed as a young girl and sent victims inappropriate photos of other minors. One of the victims is a 13-year-old girl in Hawaii.
“In this case, he was looking at websites that would give advice to kids who were considering suicide,” said Edward Arias, Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Commander. “So these predators are really bad. They know where the kids are going to and the apps that they’re going to and they’re looking for them there.”
Unfortunately, cases like this aren’t uncommon on the islands. HICAC receives about 200 cyber tips a month. The task force teams up with internet service providers and social media companies to find potential threats to keiki.
“They’ve actually stepped it up. They are monitoring everything including the conversations and they can detect if someone is being extorted and I will get the cyber tip,” Arias said.
Federal authorities often see online predators casting wide nets with victims in many jurisdictions. They said, it takes a nationwide effort to stop these predators.
“When one law enforcement agency uncovers a particular predator or a particular case then we begin to do the forensic examination of that incident,” said John F. Tobon, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge.
With advancement in technology, the internet can be a place where online predators have easy access to vulnerable victims. Experts said it’s not just law enforcement that can protect kids online, but preventative measures at home can make all the difference.
Ho’ola Na Pua, a non-profit that helps exploited children, suggests parents be on top of the latest social media apps and have open conversations with keiki about dangers online.
“That’s why predators are so savvy, because they are asking those questions and they are engaging with our young people in a way that breaks down those barriers. So we have to do that too,” said Lydia Leanos of Ho’ola Na Pua.
Montes remains in custody in St. Louis, Missouri. He will appear in court at a later date. Hawaii officials said, behind closed doors, their efforts never stop to protect Hawaii’s keiki.
“All I got to say to the bad guys is, the next time you talk to a child online, it may be me on the other side of that keyboard,” Arias said.
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Officials know there are other victims who are yet to be identified. Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the FBI.