PITTSBURGH — A married father used phony Facebook profiles to pose as two different Florida surfers to solicit sexually graphic messages and photos from seven teenage girls in Pennsylvania, and two of the girls eventually agreed to meet for sex with the surfers’ middle-aged “friend” — yet another fake persona he used, the state attorney general said Friday.
William Ainsworth, 53, of Mars, was charged Thursday with 68 counts, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and multiple counts of charges that include attempted unlawful contact with a minor, possession of child pornography and criminal use of a computer.
Ainsworth has been jailed in Butler County, since he was arrested on similar charges in September, when authorities say he traveled to the home of a 14-year-old girl for sex.
“These three personas he created were all connected and had a purpose in the scheme,” the attorney general said.
Ainsworth’s September arrest led authorities to uncover “an elaborate and disturbing false identity scam” in which Ainsworth concocted profiles depicting two 15-year-old high school dropouts who had run away to become surfers, Attorney General Linda Kelly said at a news conference Friday. The profiles were created using pictures of anonymous teens investigators believe Ainsworth lifted from MySpace pages.
The girls were psychologically manipulated because the “surfers” would pretend to share whatever experience the girls were going through. “If they were having family problems, (one surfer) would say he was having family problems. If they were thinking about running away, he’d talk about running away,” said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Kelly.
Authorities said the psychological manipulation included killing off the first surfer so the girls would become more sympathetic and likely to comply with requests from the second “surfer,” who typically introduced the girls to a friend named “Glenn Keefer.” “Keefer” was essentially Ainsworth’s alter-ego, a 50-something man from Pennsylvania who would offer the girls money for pictures or sex so they could run away to join the surfers, investigators said.
The phony Facebook pages have been taken down, and the girls are not identified in the 68-page criminal complaint. The alleged victims were 13 to 15 years old, although one girl was 12 when the computer contacts began, Kelly said.
“Given the nature and extent of the psychological manipulation, we’re being extremely careful not to re-victimize these girls,” Frederiksen said. He confirmed that Ainsworth is married with children, but Kelly refused to say whether Ainsworth’s children knew any of the alleged victims or provide other details.
Ainsworth does not have a phone number listed at the address on the criminal complaint. One listing his name in Mars led to a business, where Ainsworth was a used car salesman, but that call was not immediately returned. Ainsworth’s public defender also didn’t immediately return comment.
Ainsworth allegedly posed as surfers “Bill Cano” and “Anthony ‘Rip’ Navari,” and it was the Cano persona who typically first contacted the girls through Facebook, authorities said. Cano claimed to be a runaway from the area, and sometimes claimed to have previously attended their school. Sometimes, though, Cano was contacted by girls he didn’t solicit who saw his profile on their friends’ Facebook pages. Altogether, prosecutors said Ainsworth’s phony profiles garnered him more than 600 Facebook friends.
Cano would eventually flirt with the girls or ask for nude photos. Although the charges pertain to just seven girls, investigators have interviewed more than 30 and have gotten more than 18 search warrants to access records of his online contacts with them.
Navari would eventually begin contacting the girls as a fellow surfer and sometimes even step-brother of Cano, authorities said. At some point, Navari posted a Facebook alerts that Cano was attacked by a mob, had fallen into a coma and died.
“Some of the girls were really emotionally distraught about it,” Kelly said. “When he was deceased, the shoulder to cry on became Rip.”
Navari would play on the girls’ emotions and introduced them to Keefer who, himself or through Navari, would promise to either send the girls money to run away — or send money to support Navari’s living expenses — in exchange for nude pictures or sex.
The Keefer character introduced himself to the girls as a “Sugardaddy looking for Sugarbabies.”
Kelly said the parents of most of the girls didn’t closely monitor their Internet habits and noted some of the girls frequently accessed Facebook away from home using smartphones or other portable devices. All of the girls were vulnerable due to issues ranging from divorce and custody disputes, substance abuse, or bullying, and Ainsworth exploited those concerns, Kelly said.
“People you meet online may not always be who they say they are,” Kelly said, also warning parents to pay attention to their children’s online activity.