Saskatchewan·Special Report

Regina sex offender plays cupid for female American inmates

A Regina man with a history of sexually abusing children says he's been running a dating site for female American inmates to bring joy and love to their lives. But the mother of an alleged victim of sexual assault said Rodney Barras is a “predator” who she believes has other motives.

‘He’s quite the predator,’ says mother of alleged victim of sexual assault

CBC's iTeam originally contacted Rodney Barras to do a story about his pen pal website for female American convicts, but details about his sexual abuse of children emerged, which shifted the focus of the story. (CBC)

A Regina man with a history of sexually abusing children says he's been running a dating site for female American inmates to bring joy and love to their lives.

But the mother of an alleged victim of sexual assault, who can't be named because of a publication ban, said Rodney Barras is a "predator" who she believes has other motives. 

"I feel that it's a ruse for him to find a back door to get to find a woman that needs help, because she's down on her luck and has children," said the mother, whom we'll refer to as CP.

Barras starts his Regina-based pen pal site

Rodney Barras started a dating site for lonely American women in prisons, however he pulled down the website once CBC started asking questions about his record of sexual abuse against children. (CBC)
For just over a year, Barras has been running out of the basement where he lives in a residential neighbourhood. 

The site contains photos of women serving time in prisons across the U.S. It includes details the inmates have provided, such as their crimes, former professions, religion, measurements and how many children they have.
Barras said he doesn't just run the site. He also regularly writes to five or six women that he finds attractive, though he said he has no romantic intentions. 

He said he's just trying to help. 

"An act of love if you will. It sounds kind of corny, but it is actually true," Barras said. catches on

Rodney Barras said he receives about 300 handwritten letters from female American convicts a week hoping to have their profiles posted to (CBC)
He said at first he received up to 100 handwritten letters from inmates every week, with photos and personal information. But that quickly grew to more than 300. 

He doesn't charge for the service. And he said he has invested thousands of dollars to reach out to these women desperate for attention.

Some of those prisoners have been released, and he continues to keep in touch with them.

"When they are released I am like their little safety net," Barras said. "They want to make sure that they have my phone number and my Facebook page."
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      Mother of alleged victim says Barras a 'predator'

      This story is eerily familiar to CP, who said Barras also moved into her life at a time of need, and almost destroyed it. 

      "Knowing all I know now, he's quite the predator," she told CBC's iTeam.

      Back in the mid-'90s, CP was a single mother of two. She was approached by her landlord and asked if she would be willing to rent out a room to Barras. 

      She said he seemed like "the perfect roommate." 

      Knowing all I know now, he's quite the predator.— CP, mother of alleged sexual assault victim

      He lived with her for a few months and became a good friend of the family. "He was kind. He didn't drink. He didn't do dope.. He didn't swear. I thought, 'OK, cool.'"

      "Like he'd help me with heavy things, go to the store."

      She said Rodney also regularly looked after her nine-year-old boy and would sometimes take him for ice cream. 

      Boy makes troubling allegations

      All seemed to be going well until one day her son delivered some troubling news. 

      "He more or less told me that Rodney touched him with his privates," CP said. 

      She reported the matter to social services, which brought in police. 

      Following an investigation, Barras was charged with three counts of sexual interference, three counts of sexual assault and one count of invitation to sexual touching. 

      Barras went to trial and on Dec. 12, 1995, he was acquitted on all charges. 

      CP said she has no doubt her son was telling the truth, but she said the little boy had a learning disability and was a poor communicator. 

      Despite the verdict, CP is convinced that Barras is a danger to children. And his criminal record appears to bear that out. 

      Barras has a history of abusing children

      Rodney Barras spent six months in a Florida prison in 1993 after he pleaded 'nolo contendere' to lewd and lascivious conduct related to a little girl. (Pinellas County Sheriff's Office)
      Barras has been convicted of sex charges against children in both Canada and the U.S. Toronto police have confirmed that he's still listed as a potential sex offender in their database.

      In 1993, he was found guilty of lewd and lascivious conduct related to one little girl in Florida. 

      Then in 1994, he was convicted of sexually assaulting another girl under 14 years old in Ontario. 

      In addition, he was charged and acquitted of sexual assault charges relating to two little boys, CP's son in 1995 and another child in 2006.

      In his ruling on the 2006 case, Judge Brian Trafford said the little boy's testimony did not rise to the level of beyond a reasonable doubt. 

      However, he also pointed out that "the court has not found [the boy's] testimony is false in its material particulars. He may be a truthful and reliable witness." 

      In addition to these charges, Barras was found to have breached court ordered conditions to stay away from children or places where they frequent on three occasions. 

      Barras says this is a case of mistaken identity

      When the iTeam's Geoff Leo showed Rodney Barras his name and birthday matched a Florida document that said he was guilty of lewd and lascivious conduct in front of a little girl, he flatly denied he was the same person. (CBC)
      When CBC's iTeam asked Barras about his record of sexual offences against children, he argued we had the wrong man.

      "A sexual charge against a child. No, absolutely not," Barras said. 

      When it was pointed out to him that he shared the same first, middle and last name and birthdate with the person convicted of all those sex charges, he continued his denial. 

      "It is a coincidence. It's wild," Barras said. 

      But he suggested a simple test to help clear up the confusion. 

      A sexual charge against a child. No, absolutely not.— Rodney Barras

      "Get the mug shot," he suggested.

      "That'll solve your mystery right there. I guarantee you won't see my picture [because] I've never been in prison."

      CBC obtained a mug shot of Barras from the Florida prison system. Barras has aged and put on weight but the photo shows the same facial markings in the same locations on his face and neck. 

      In an email to CBC, he responded, "If this is the direction the story is going to take, I'm not interested. I thought it would be about the website." 

      A few hours later, was wiped from the internet.

      Barras connecting with former inmates

      Marie Bryant is one of the inmates Rodney Barras was corresponding with. (Marie Bryant/Facebook)
      Marie Bryant, a 36-year-old mother of one who was released from an Arizona prison earlier this year after serving 6½ years for aggravated identity fraud, is one of the inmates Barras was corresponding with. 

      When CBC first spoke to Bryant, she said prison was depressing and lonely, but Barras always brightened her day. 

      "I would love to meet him and give him a big hug just because he put so much joy into my life just by being there for me," Bryant told CBC's iTeam.

      About the Author

      Geoff Leo

      Senior Investigative Journalist

      Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.

      With files from the CBC's Roxanna Woloshyn


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