Man posed as fashion blogger to groom kids online
A man who pretended to be the beauty and fashion blogger Zoe Sugg, Zoella, in order to groom children online has been jailed for eight years.
David Harmes, 20, coerced young girls into performing sex acts by pretending to be public figures he thought would appeal to young girls.
He also claimed to be a member of the boy band Bars and Melody as well as a modelling agent.
Harmes, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, used Skype to contact victims across the country taking on false identities to lure them into sex acts. He did not meet with any of the victims.
He admitted to 35 offences against 28 victims, aged between eight and 18. He asked for four further offences to be taken into consideration.
The offences include causing or inciting a girl under 13 in sexual activity and making and distributing indecent photographs of a child.
DC Simon Ledger of Cheshire Police said: "Harmes duped young girls into thinking they were talking to people they looked up to and in some cases posed as a modelling agency representative so that he could manipulate them for his own pleasure.
"It is timely reminder that while the internet is an amazing tool, it has a darker side which we need to be mindful of and shows just how imperative it is that parents are aware of the sites their children are accessing and who they are communicating with.
"People like Harmes have no qualms with using the internet to their own perverse means."
Harmes was jailed for eight years at Chester Crown Court on Monday. He has been ordered to serve five years behind bars and three out on a licence.
Wendy Newton, senior crown court prosecutor with the Mersey Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service, added: "Hermes ruthlessly exploited these children for his own sexual gratification.
"The girls as young as eight and nine, thought they were being offered the opportunity to be part of a modelling or dance company or were being given the chance to talk to a member of a famous pop group or fashion blogger.
"Harmes is yet another offender willing to use the internet and webcams to commit crimes. It is important that parents are aware of what their children are doing online and that they talk to them about the risks of interacting with people they don't know personally."