His impersonator, a 42-year-old law professor named Gordon Douglas Chalmers, Australian media outlets report, has just been charged with 931 child-sex offenses, including rape, assault, and soliciting pedophilic pornography from 157 fans in the name of the pop star.
Among the victims of the sickening scam are reportedly 50 American, 20 British, and six Australian children who sent nude photos of themselves and, in several cases, managed to meet the perpetrator, who pretended to be the Beeb, for sexual encounters or photo sessions.
Authorities said the Brisbane professor communicated with the kids as the Fake Beeb via Facebook and Skype, and then used nude photos they sent him to make compilation child-pornography films that were later distributed through illicit networks. When police raided his home, officials said they found a cache of child-abuse images that may or may not be related to his impersonation of the entertainer.
Police in Queensland say the suspect was under investigation for other crimes dating back to 2007 when they found the ties to the phony Bieber persona. In November, they were able to get warrants to search his social-network accounts, cloud storage services, and email services through third-party providers, which led to the Wednesday arrest in Australia.
These additional 931 counts related to Bieber were stemmed from the investigation into the previous charges, according to reporters in Australia. Chalmers has yet to enter a plea in the case.
“The fact that so many children could believe that they were communicating with this particular celebrity highlights the need for a serious rethink about the way that we as a society educate our children about online safety,” Police Detective Inspector Jon Rouse said in a statement published in local media outlets. “The breadth of offenses committed in this instance is frankly horrendous.”
Online child pornography is a global problem. Every year, thousands of children are victimized, either lured by predators to meet in person or convinced to send photos online.
Last week, the BBC ran an exposé about how Facebook often refuses to take down clearly pornographic images involving children. When BBC reporters requested an interview with Facebook executives for their report, they agreed under the condition that BBC first send the images they were referring to. When the journalists sent images, including some they found under profiles of known pedophiles and others showing actual child abuse taking place, Facebook reported the BBC journalists to police for sending obscene images, citing company policy when inappropriate images are sent to them.
In the case against Bieber’s impersonator, Facebook played a major role in luring the children by enabling Chalmers to create a phony Bieber profile meant to represent the star, and then use it to entice children.
Chalmers’s first court date is April 6. He may face additional charges in the U.S. and U.K. because many of the reported victims were from those countries.
Bieber is currently on the Australian leg of his “Purpose World Tour” and will play in Brisbane on Monday. His representatives have not made an official comment on the ordeal or whether he will pursue any legal avenues against the suspect.