Internet safety: Alum targets Saratoga girls on Facebook with sexually explicit messages

November 27, 2018 — by Callia Yuan and Jayne Zhou

Editor’s note: Chen is a pseudonym to protect one source’s identity.

“Hey, I go to LG high school and I was wondering if I can ask you some questions if that’s okay with you.”

When junior Sally Kim, 16, initially received this message in September from a Facebook account under the alias John Yang, she thought little of the message that seemed to be from a Los Gatos High student journalist.

She first responded “no” to his messages after her friends warned her that there was someone who had been asking girls inappropriate questions on Facebook. But after another one of Kim’s friends said John Yang might really just be a newspaper student who needed an interview, Kim decided to ask him what the questions were.

“I heard there was someone perverted talking to girls,” she texted Yang. But he responded saying that the “someone perverted” wasn’t him, but he “knew who it was.”

Kim posted screenshots of the conversation on her Snapchat story, hoping to spread awareness and get more solid information. After seeing Kim’s story, Chen, 16, a junior currently attending the district’s Middle College alternative program, reached out to Kim and said that she had also been contacted by John Yang in July. (Chen requested anonymity from The Falcon.)

Chen told Kim that although she was initially messaged by the John Yang account, the man told her that he would send a friend request from his real Facebook account. Viewing the man’s actual profile, Kim discovered that the man is 21, graduated from Saratoga High in 2016 and attends West Valley College. (The Falcon is not using his actual name because he has not been charged with a crime for his alleged behavior.)

Kim continued messaging the John Yang account, asking why no one from Los Gatos High knew him and why he had only four friends on Facebook. After she eventually confronted Yang with his real name and asked if he was the same person through messaging, he began to apologize profusely.

“I’m really sorry,” the man said. “Are you going to tell other people though? I just hope this conversation would stay between us. I mean, I apologized three times. Does that not count?”

It wasn’t enough for Kim.

“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer and the school authorities,” Kim said, to which he “sad reacted” and responded with a bribe of $180.

Kim then told SHS administrators about the situation, and they began working with the sheriff’s department to investigate the issue further. No charges have been filed in the case, according to school resource officer Russ Davis.

The SHS administration declined to comment on the situation.

Although they are not acquainted in person, Chen said she has encountered Yang at West Valley twice before, and recognized him through the photos on his real Facebook account.

“I saw him and didn’t say anything,” said Chen. “He didn’t see me though.”

Chen said she didn’t find the man, who has a slight physique, particularly alarming or intimidating.

Junior Vivienne Nguyen, who was 15 at the time, also received messages from the man that were much more disturbing and that eventually became extremely sexually explicit and asked for sexual favors.

As he continued to message her, he also began to show that he knew an alarming amount about Nguyen.

“He talked about how he would meet me at Saratoga High if I wanted to,” Nguyen said. “He even knew [who I hung out with and where].”

The John Yang Facebook account has since been deleted, but it appears that John Yang wasn’t the only alias the man was using. Other girls revealed being messaged by a Daniel Yang, David Yang and other aliases. Kim believes the man most likely changed the name of his Facebook account every two to four months, but it’s possible that multiple accounts were used.

Besides Kim, none of the other girls reported the incident to school officials or sheriff’s deputies after being texted.

Sophomore Allison Ha, 15, unaware that Yang was messaging other people as well, said that she “didn’t think anything of it” after he reached out to her on Facebook. Ha never responded or received additional messages.

Chen told her parents only after school authorities called her in to question her, while Nguyen didn’t tell anyone because “it didn’t really seem like a big deal” to her.

Kim said that her parents were alarmed when informed of the situation and that they initially thought she had posted something online that made her the man’s target. Kim, though, said she had not done anything to attract attention and doesn’t know why he decided to message her in the first place.

Some girls told The Falcon that they were contacted as early as July 2017 by the man. None of the girls, besides Kim, had even questioned the man after being asked sexually explicit questions.

Being a potential victim of online targeting is an alarming reality for teenagers. According to PureSight.com, “one in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the internet says they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web.” Social media’s accessibility makes personal information like school, age and appearance easy to find.

According to deputy Davis, there are laws in place to protect people from internet harassment. He said, “There’s a penal code section for annoying and harassing someone through social media; in that case, there is also one that protects against making a fake social media account of somebody with the intent to harass.”

Asked why the man hasn’t been charged, Davis said, “It’s one of those things that unfortunately must be a long repeated offense for it to become a crime” and therefore for charges to be filed.

The case has since been closed from the law enforcement side, Davis said.

“If someone else encounters a situation like this, all I can say is, ignore them,” Davis said. ”And if it continues, the safest thing to do is report it to an adult.”

 

 

 

 

 

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