By Perry Smith
An Anaheim man was arrested in a sting operation on charges he targeted a Santa Clarita teen for a sexual relationship using Kik, a popular instant messaging service.
Jason Brett Walsh, 44, pleaded not guilty to 21 counts, according to a representative with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Sheriff’s Department officials suspect him of conducting a yearlong relationship with “a girl under the age of 16,” said Sgt. Brian Hudson, who leads the Santa Clarita/Antelope valleys unit for the Special Victims Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Walsh last week, when he was supposed to meet the alleged victim, Hudson said.
“(Walsh) drove from his residence in Anaheim on Thursday to Santa Clarita, believing he was going to meet the victim again,” Hudson said. “When he arrived at the location, he was met by the SCV Special Victims Bureau and brought into custody.”
The charges include contact with a minor for sexual offense, sending/bringing obscene material into the state for sale, sending harmful matter to a minor, possession of child pornography, meeting a minor for lewd purposes, oral copulation with a child under the age of 18, sexual penetration with a foreign object and using a minor for sex acts.
Kik is a free social media app that now claims more than 150 million users, according to its website.
“(The investigation) involved a case where he had met an underage female in Santa Clarita via online messaging,” Hudson said. “As a result of that meeting, he engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with her on several occasions.”
After the parents became aware of the relationship, they notified Sheriff’s Department officials, who then began an investigation, Hudson said.
Detectives believe the Santa Clarita girl was Walsh’s only victim, Hudson said.
Walsh, whose occupation was listed as sales, is being held in lieu of $1.09 million bail. He’s due back in court Sept. 26 for a preliminary hearing.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Josh Dubin discussed Kik and some of the dangers associated with unmonitored social media activity on “Neighborhood Watch,” a twice-monthly radio show and podcast that will air again Thursday on KHTS AM-1220.
The city also has hosted a series of workshops aimed at raising awareness about the access children have to harmful materials online through cellphones and other mobile devices, using the Internet and social media.
The average teen sends about 50 text messages per day, according to information presented by the Sheriff’s Department. More than 1-in-5 high school students take part in sexting, or sending sexually explicit messages — and the number rises to 1-in-3 by the time those same students are legally adults at college a few years later