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Teenager faces 47 charges in child-luring case

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A 17-year-old is facing 47 charges related to child luring, prompting a police warning to parents to monitor their children's Internet activity.

The teen – who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act – is accused of using Facebook to persuade children as young as 10 to perform sexual acts over webcam. RCMP allege they've identified 20 victims.

"It's a disturbing case," spokesman Sergeant Rob Vermeulen said in an interview. "This is a case of a young person taking advantage of people that are even younger."

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The teen is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. He's charged with personation with intent, extortion, uttering threats, communicating via computer to lure a child under the age of 18, obtaining sexual services of a person under the age of 18, and invitation to sexual touching.

RCMP in the West Kootenay community of Trail began investigating the teen on Nov. 14 after receiving a tip. Four days later, he was arrested. Mounties seized "digital equipment" related to the case, but haven't clarified what they found.

Seven charges were sworn against the teenager after his arrest. The number has now risen to 47, but Sgt. Vermeulen said more charges are possible.

The teen is not being held in custody, but is prohibited from possessing digital devices and using the Internet without adult supervision.

"This case highlights the need for all parents to carefully monitor their children's activity on social media sites and to educate them in online safety," Sgt. Vermeulen said.

The incidents are alleged to have occurred from June, 2009, to November. RCMP say the apparent victims range in age from 10 to 14. Police have not disclosed whether they were male or female.

Sgt. Vermeulen alleged that while the teen tried to arrange face-to-face meetings with those he spoke to online, there is no evidence those meetings occurred.

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Greg Luterbach, superintendent of the Kootenay-Columbia school district, said no new measures have been implemented as a direct result of the incident. However, he said the district is talking to parents about how to keep children safe online.

"We have had some conversations with our secondary principals around doing some parent-education pieces. Working with our district parents' advisory council is something else we've looked at doing to help support families in this situation."

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