Man charged with soliciting minor through MySpace

A Connecticut man is charged with using MySpace.com to contact a 15-year-old girl and have sex with her.

A 26-year-old man from Somers, Connecticut, faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl he met through MySpace.com, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said late Tuesday.

Jason Palmeira, was arrested Tuesday and faces charges related to using the Internet to persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity, and traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of having illicit sexual conduct with a minor, the DOJ said.

The 15-year-old girl, from Simsbury, Connecticut, posted a message on MySpace.com on June 19, according to the DOJ. She identified herself as a 15-year-old and said she was interested in meeting boys under the age of 18, the DOJ said.

On June 21, Palmeira allegedly sent an e-mail to the girl in response to her message, saying he was 26 years old. Palmeira and the girl began communicating often, using both the Internet and telephone, and their discussions turned sexual in nature and involved arranging a meeting, the DOJ said.

On July 13, Palmeira allegedly met the girl, then drove her to a house in Massachusetts. There the two allegedly engaged in sexual activity. Palmeira drove the girl back to Connecticut the following morning. The girl's mother then contacted the Simsbury Police.

Palmeira was released Tuesday after posting a US$100,000 bond. Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut in Hartford ordered Palmeira to reside with his parents at their home in Springfield, Massachusetts, and restricted his access to the Internet.

If convicted, Palmeira faces a minimum of five years in prison, a maximum of 30 years in prison, a period of supervised release for as long as life and a fine of up to US$250,000.

There are several warning signs that a child may be communicating online with a sexual predator, the DOJ said. These signs include:

-- A child who spends large amounts of time online, particularly between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. when their parents may still be at work;

-- A child has pornography on his or her computer, because predators often send their victims pornography to engage them in sexual discussions;

-- A child receives or makes phone calls to unfamiliar numbers;

--A child receives mail, gifts or packages from unknown sources;

-- A child makes efforts to cover up what he or she is doing on the computer, such as turning off the monitor or changing the screen when others walk into the room;

-- A child begins to use an online account belonging to someone else.

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