Parents are urged to better educate their children about online communication, after a 12-year old boy has realised that his “new best friend” was actually a 34-year old sex offender. The pair met online playing League of Legends and Minecraft.
Andrew Hartung, who was reportedly “friendly” with two additional boys, claimed to be a teenager while playing the games. He would send the boys expensive gifts before asking them to expose themselves on camera. Local media reports the man was living in an apartment block “brimming with children”, and lying about his prior child pornography conviction. Hartung has now been charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of communication with a minor for immoral purposes and one count of second-degree possession of child pornography.
The 12-year old boy’s father told authorities his son was receiving “flirtatious text messages” from a friend he’d met playing online games, and who had mentioned plans to visit Colorado to meet him in person. The 12-year old considered Hartung (who described himself as a 15-year old with a rich father, to explain the gifts) as his “best friend”.
Hartung, on the other hand, was a 34-year old man, convicted of child pornography charges 12 years ago. He had been ordered to register as a sex offender, but ultimately did not, living without registration since 2002.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Cecelia Gregson explains this 12-year old was not the first to fall into Hartung’s trap:
Since that time, the defendant has groomed children across state lines via the Internet enticing them with expensive gifts, electronics, money and cigarettes in exchange for photographs of their genitals.
Detectives who arrived at Hartung’s home to arrest him also discovered children’s toys and a number of DVDs showing naked adolescent boys. He remains jailed on $500,000 bail.