A man inthe U.K.was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for sexually exploiting young girls, including one teenage girl from Manitoba, through the internet.
The Inner London Crown Court sentenced Adrian Ringland, 36, to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including blackmail, hacking, indecency with a child, and making indecent photographs of a child.
Ringland, a father of two, posed as a chat room teenager to manipulate school-aged girls, hacking into their computers and blackmailing them into sending him explicit photographs of themselves.
One of his three victims was a 14-year-old Manitoba girl, said Signy Arnason, director of Cybertip.ca, a national telephone tipline based in Winnipeg that receives tips about internet predators.
"She had had an individual she was conversing with. He had opened her [computer's] CD tray and an image was sent," Arnason said Thursday.
"And she was petrified, so she came into the tipline to ask if we could assist her with dealing with it."
The other two girls Ringland targeted were in the U.K.
Girl praised for launching investigation
Cybertip.ca passed along the information to the Manitoba Integrated Child Exploitation Unit, a joint effort of the RCMP and the Winnipeg Police Service.
Winnipeg police Const. John Siderius praised the young teen in Manitoba for having the courage to tell her parents and report the incident to Cybertip.
"It took a lot of courage; she's a young girl," Siderius said.
"Not only was it a scary thing for her, but it was very embarrassing to have to admit what actually occurred and come forward and tell us— the police, strangers— her story," he said.
In London, internet investigator Dan Haagman with 7Safe InformationSecurity Servicescredited the Manitoba teen with making the tip that started the investigation. He helped build a forensic case that led to Ringland's conviction.
"The child in Canada was the one who complained, she deserves credit," Haagman said Thursday.
Haagman noted that it was scary how Ringland used his knowledge of technology the way he did.
"The tools that he used are freely available on the internet, and it's pretty worrying that that is the case," he said.
Ringland had allegedly used specialized software to take over his victims' computers. The software, called a "computer backdoor," allowed him to access their hard drives, move their cursors around the screen, open and close the computers' CD trays, and even take pictures on their webcams.
"He basically took over their computer, and very scarily in this particular instance, their webcams, and took photographs of them after making them basically pose for them," Haagman said. "That's a very scary thing."
Siderius said that the damage that predators like Ringland inflict on young victims can be enormous.
"The girls definitely feel threatened by it, and they become very fearful," Siderius said.
"They don't know where this individual is. This individual could be next door, he could be halfway across the world, as was in this case."
Victory for tipline, investigators
Arnason said Ringland's conviction is a victory for Cybertip and child exploitation investigators.
"I think it's outstanding news that someone has been held accountable for going out and clearly victimizing a number of children, both within Canada and around the world," she said.
"I think anytime you're dealing with the internet, you're dealing with no borders. And as a result of that, it's not surprising to have suspects and victims in different areas around the world."
Siderius said a family's best defence against internet predators is for parents to monitor their children's use of the home computer constantly, and to report suspicious behaviour to Cybertip.