'Brave' Calgary boy saved others from U.S. child predator, police say

An 11-year-old Calgary boy saved multiple U.S. victims from a child predator by taking the "brave step" of contacting police, officials say.

'Obviously for an 11-year-old boy it was quite a brave step to come forward,' officer says

Joseph Daniel Saucedo, of California, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 20 years of supervised release for attempting to manipulate children into sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves to him. (CBC)

An 11-year-old Calgary boy saved multiple U.S. victims from a child predator by taking the "brave step" of contacting police, officials say.

Joseph Daniel Saucedo, 26, of Vista, Calif., was sentenced in federal court in San Diego County Friday to 20 years in prison and 20 years of supervised release for attempting to manipulate two children into sending him sexually explicit photos, and threatening to expose them if they didn't comply, according to a release from U.S. law enforcement.

Because of this young man, because he came forward and was so brave to do that, we were able to save [more] victims.- Det . Ray Kelly

Det. Ray Kelly with the Calgary Police Service said officers were informed of the situation by the victim's family, and that at the time, neither Calgary police nor U.S. law enforcement were aware of the offender. 

"Obviously for an 11-year-old boy, it was quite a brave step to come forward.… I knew this wasn't a small feat for him to contact police. This was something where he had to go to his parents and tell them what's going on," Kelly said. 

"Because of this young man, because he came forward and was so brave to do that, we were able to save [more] victims.… That's a hard thing for a kid to do. But he knew what the right thing was. He identified the risk there and made us aware."

According to the plea agreement, Saucedo posed as a teenage girl and struck up conversations with the 11-year-old boy using an online messaging app. In his disguise as 16-year-old "Amy," he attempted to coerce the boy to communicate with Amy's "friend," the 26-year-old Saucedo.

When the boy refused, "Amy" sent him a photo of his house and threatened him into relenting. When the two spoke on a video-chat app, Saucedo appeared nude, prompting the boy to hang up. The calls and threats continued, and at this point, the 11-year-old told his family what had been occurring and they went to police.

'Offenders will play on fear'

"A lot of the times in these types of cases the offenders will play on fear," said Kelly.

Kelly said police contacted the social media platform, but didn't reveal which one.

"It could be anything from Facebook to Kik to WhatsApp, any platform. Their MO was always the same, they always used that fear factor," he said. 

Police tracked down the user's IP address and account located in the United States, at which point they opened a joint investigation, working with RCMP, San Diego's Electronic Crimes Working Group, the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Homeland Security.

"We were able to identify other victims the offender was going after and targeting," Kelly said. 

Through additional investigations and search warrants, police identified nine other underage victims. 

"Saucedo's indifference to his victims' apparent suffering included disregarding multiple victims' warnings that his contacts and demands were triggering suicidal thoughts," the release said.

Need to know social media risks

Kelly said the case holds lessons for parents about the importance of talking with their children about the risks of online chat. 

"The real key for parents here is to have open communication with their kids, to ensure they know what platforms their kids are on and who they're speaking with online," said Kelly.

He said that as a parent, he feels as soon as a kid has touched a keyboard, it's time to have a frank discussion about the risks of social media platforms, and that kids should know that they shouldn't speak to anyone online that they don't know in real life. 

"A true friend, someone who really values you, is never going to send you something that is questionable or ask you to do anything like that either. Once that takes place, don't just ignore, don't just cancel that friendship, let law enforcement know like this young man did."

With files from Diane Yanko