Mohammed Sarang, a 19-year-old student from Wembley, pleaded guilty to inciting a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity, taking indecent photographs of a child under 16 and causing or inciting child pornography at Harrow Crown Court.
He was given a two-year suspended sentence, a supervision order for two years, a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order and was ordered to attend a 60-day training programme.
Sarang had remotely hacked into the Facebook account of one of his victims’ friends. He took over her identity and created a fraudulent account in the name of ‘Nicola Hay’, posing as a modelling agent.
Using this alias Sarang befriended several young girls from the Wigan area on social media sites, leading them to believe he could find them modelling jobs.
In order to check out their ‘suitability’ for these imaginary jobs, he would offer them a webcam audition, during which he would ask them to undress and perform sexual acts.
Sarang’s identity was uncovered when the mother of one of his victims became concerned when she discovered an online conversation her daughter was having with someone called ‘Nicola’ and contacted Greater Manchester Police.
Following a joint investigation between GMP and the Metropolitan Police, officers arrested Sarang after carrying out a search of his home address in Wembley, where they found computers with online conversations between him and his victim.
Detective Inspector Joanne Clawson, said: “We worked extremely closely with The Met throughout their investigation and I am pleased that we were able to identify and put a stop to the actions of Mohammed Sarang, who used the internet to groom young children from Wigan and other areas within the UK.
“As part of the investigation and alongside partner agencies, we visited more than 60 children in Wigan who had come into contact with Sarang, many of whom befriended him simply because their friends had.
“All of the children and their families received safeguarding advice during these visits, as our top priority is ensuring the on-going safeguarding of vulnerable people.
“This is a tactic that is used by sex offenders online who seek to cast their net as widely as possible and so I would encourage parents to be vigilant and intrusive about their child’s activities online.
“With them holding the internet in the palm of their hands it is important to scrutinise who they are ‘friends’ with on social media sites and alert us to any concerns they have.”
Project Phoenix is Greater Manchester’s multi-agency response to tackling child sex exploitation. Bringing together police, local authorities, the NHS and third sector organisations, including Barnardo’s and Crimestoppers, Project Phoenix aims to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation, help people recognise the signs, encourage people to report it and provide support to victims and those most at risk.
Visit www.itsnotokay.co.uk for information for children, young people, parents, carers and professionals on how to spot the signs of child sex exploitation and what to do about it.