VERNON - A Vernon man lured Okanagan girls via Facebook by telling them he was a modeling agent looking for young talent, said the Crown.
David Clayton Willerth, born in 1974, is scheduled to enter expected guilty pleas for 25 counts, including communicating by computer to lure a person under 16, making or publishing child pornography and invitation to sexual touching of a person under 16 this fall, but he was sentenced Monday for breaching an earlier probation order.
When Willerth was arrested in the summer of 2013, he was already under court order not to communicate on the Internet with underage girls. Those conditions were part of a 2012 probation order for impersonating his then girlfriend on Facebook.
Crown counsel Cristina Cabulea says Willerth was using various names and techniques to lure women of varying ages to engage in sexual intercourse. When he was unsuccessful, he impersonated his girlfriend and mother of his son.
“(He used) her Facebook account to contact females and ask them to have sex with Mr. Willerth to assist her to get custody of their son,” Cabulea said. “Willerth admitted his sole purpose was to get females to have sex with him.”
During the 2012 court proceedings, a psychiatric assessment deemed Willerth was at a low risk to reoffend. However, Cabulea said while on his probation order, Willerth communicated with many underage girls via Facebook aliases.
Willerth would friend the girls and begin messaging them. He told them he was a modeling agent and asked them how far they would go to become models. He said they could make thousands of dollars a day and asked for ‘naughty’ photos of them so he could build their profiles. Some he asked to meet in person, saying he wanted to give them foot massages and make out with them. One girl, who was 14 at the time, sent him 10 nude photos of herself.
Several of the girls terminated their conversations with him, and two told their parents. That led to an RCMP investigation and Willerth’s eventual arrest July 17 in Vernon. Cabulea said police tracked his IP address to his wife’s home, where he was living. When they seized her laptop, she said she didn’t know he was using it.
Police found 163 Facebook friends on Willerth’s phony profile, most of them under 18, and eventually discovered more complainants than the original two who came forward.
“He stated to the police officer ‘To tell you the truth, I thought I would get away with it’ when he was asked about why he committed the offenses,” Cabulea said.
Cabulea said Willerth targeted females by searching ‘Okanagan girls’ and sending friend requests to the ones he found attractive.
“Once one girl accepted the friend request he had an in to see their friend list,” Cabulea said.
By increasing his network of mutual friends, he increased the likelihood of having new requests accepted.
A new psychiatric assessment says Willerth is at a moderate to high risk of reoffending. In a joint sentence submission, Cabulea and defence lawyer Dave Johnson asked for a one year jail term for the breach of probation. Cabulea said aggravating factors are the nature of the communication, the number of complainants, the fact Willerth said he thought he could get away with it, and the ‘blatant’ aspect of the breach. She said he admitted knowing it was wrong, but was aroused by fooling the girls, calling the charade “an escape.”
Provincial court judge Mark Takahashi was surprised Crown counsel had not asked for a probation order following the one year jail term.
“I’m concerned we’ve now got a medium to high risk individual who by his actions has violently breached the concerns that were addressed by the probation order in 2012. I have some difficulty just imagining the individual is free to go and do what he wants to do,” Takahashi said, adding it’s possible Willerth will be acquitted on his other charges.
Takahashi said Willerth’s breaches were ‘blatant and flagrant’ and contrary to the aims of the probation order. He said it’s clear from the pre-sentence report that Willerth is unable to control himself and needs to be supervised.
“Crown, for reasons that are not clear and in spite of recommendations of the pre-sentence report that the gentleman be subject to conditions on his release, have not been made conditions of (the sentence),” Takahashi said.
Takahashi sentenced Willerth to a year in jail for the breach, as per the joint submission, but he also handed him a two year probation with strict conditions. Willerth has been in custody since his arrest in July 2013 and Takahashi granted him a credit of one year for time already served.
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