The allure of fame and fortune is a powerful one, promising escape to a better life where all your troubles just melt away. Sadly, some people take advantage of that desire and use it to nefarious ends. That's what allegedly happened in Ohio when a man pretending to be a movie producer convinced two teens into pornographic acts.
Charles Thomas Barbarotta, a 33-year-old man from Norwalk, Ohio, allegedly contacted two teenage girls online through social media-- luring them in by telling them that he was a movie producer, which he wasn't. And that was just the crux of his scheme.
According to News 5 Cleveland, Charles Barbarotta has plead guilty to two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and is now headed to prison for 20 years. Although he is now off the street, the damage he did may not be fully tallied as of yet.
In addition to the two victims for whom he was charged, authorities believe that Charles Barbarotta may have used this scheme on other teenage girls, and there may be other victims out there. The authorities are urging anyone who knows about other possible victims to contact the Cleveland FBI.
There are movies that depict the perils lurking online, where you never really know whom you're talking to-- from something like this year's Searching to Catfish and the MTV series of the same name. But this story puts the dangers of social media into stark relief, showing that they are very real and just how easy it is for predators to contact minors online, and the lengths they will go to in order to trick them into doing what they want.
Speaking with News 5 Cleveland, U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman stressed the importance for parents of knowing what their kids are up to online and on social media and whom they are in contact with.
This is obviously a disturbing story that hopefully reminds people to play it safe and be cautious when talking to strangers online. Generations of kids have been taught not to talk to strangers; that message just needs to be adhered to just as much in person as through a screen.
For something a little bit more cheerful, the holiday movie season is upon us! There are plenty of blockbusters and awards contenders coming to theaters in the coming months that are worth keeping an eye on. Check them out in our Holiday Movie Guide.