MANILA - Dreaming of becoming a model? Be wary of "talent managers" who befriend you on Facebook.
Police on Sunday arrested a suspect who conned two young girls to send him nude photos for an alleged modeling break, and then threatening to expose their information on social media unless they had sex with him.
Aldwin Angelo Cruz, 24, did not answer the allegations but showed police officers the dummy Facebook account he used to chat with the two girls and others he stalked through a public modeling/photo shoot group page.
"First, he would ask them to send him photos wearing sports bras, until little by little he would ask for nude photos. He would offer them as much as P30,000," said Senior Inspector Jun Saballo, chief investigator of Manila Police Station 4, which handled the case.
The suspect would next set a meet up with his prospects. He would then blackmail them into doing sexual favors so he would not release their photos to their parents or school authorities, police said.
Police said Cruz used the scheme on a 16-year-old Grade 10 student. The student said Cruz sexually assaulted her during their first meet up at a hotel in Manila on Friday.
"He threatened to kill her parents if she didn’t give the information he needed. She was traumatized. She gave him what he asked out of fear for her family,” said the girl’s mother.
The girl also referred a friend of the same age for Cruz to recruit. But this friend became suspicious when she noticed the man had no information on his account and did not even use his photo.
When Cruz also began threatening her with her home address, she opened it up to her parents. She also learned about the sexual assault to her friend and decided to go to the police.
Using her account, the police set a meeting with Cruz outside an event in Pasay City. He was arrested after the girl pointed him out to law enforcers.
Cruz has so far refused to talk to the police.
Saballo cautioned social media users from giving out their personal information or intimate images to people they have only met online. He said they may not know where these can be used.
Prospective models looking for gigs should also make sure people posing as talent managers have transparent social media accounts and can present portfolios or set cards of their models.
Saballo also encouraged minors to open up to their parents about their activities on social media and parents to monitor their children’s online use.
The girls’ families are hoping to get legal assistance to pursue rape and other cases against Cruz, in order to prevent other girls from being conned.
Investigators also hope other victims would file complaints.