A Florida man who posed as a teen on social media to sexually exploit a Maine child is sentenced to prison.

Who Was Sentenced?

Wesley Deal, who also went by the name Wesley Troy Harris, 43, of Florida was sentenced on Friday in U.S. District Court in Bangor to 20 years in prison. Deal pleaded guilty in April to sexually exploiting a child and distributing child sexual abuse material. (also known as child pornography) His prison sentence will be followed by five years of supervised release.

How Did He Access a Child From Maine?

The details of the case demonstrate the dangers of children using social media and have prompted a warning to parents. According to the United States Attorney's Office, District of Maine, the abuse started during the summer of 2020, when Deal posed as a teenage boy in order to engage with an 11-year-old girl from Maine through Instagram. He convinced the child to send him sexually explicit images and videos and then threatened to post them on Snapchat and Instagram if the child didn't send more.

When police intercepted Deal, they seized his cell phone where they found more than 700 child sexual abuse images, as well as evidence of Google Hangouts chats with others, similar to those Deal had with the Maine victim.

What Can Parents Do To Protect Their Children?

U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee said in a statement that the internet makes it far too easy for predators like Deal to take advantage of young children on social media.

It is so important for parents and guardians of children accessing the internet - whether it's playing Roblox, Minecraft, or simply believed to be engaging with their friends on social media - to talk to them regularly and warn them never to engage with anyone they haven't met in real life and to never share intimate images, videos, or live streams with anyone, even someone they know, love, and trust.

Tips about suspected child sexual exploitation can be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children through their Cyber Tipline or by calling the free, private 24-hour statewide sexual assault helpline at 1-800-871-7741.

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