Dubliner allegedly among child victims of sick serial sex offender in US

A number of Irish children were among the victims of a serial sex offenders registered in America, who groomed and abused hundreds of children over the internet.

And according to RTÉ's This Week programme, one of the victims lives in Dublin.

US law enforcement officials told RTÉ that as many as four, and possibly even more, kids here were among the victims of the vile sex offender - who, in some cases, manipulated his victims into abusing younger children or engaging in acts with animals - writes dublinlive.ie.

American businessman Blake Robert Johnston, 42, was jailed last year in a court in California for 30 years for travelling across state lines in the US with the intent to engage in sexual acts with a minor.

Searches at his property in Martinez, California also uncovered huge amounts of material relating to children he had groomed and abused over the internet, both in the US and in a number of other countries including Ireland.

One child was based in Dublin, one in Meath, one exact whose location in Ireland had not been identified, and one child who moved between Ireland and another jurisdiction when the abuse occurred.

Johnston first came to police attention when a woman's 14-year-old daughter went missing.

The woman passed her child's mobile phone to police for examination and they discovered the girl had received several calls from an unidentified number. Police traced that number back to Johnston.

Within 24 hours of the victim's disappearance, Martinez police found the missing girl in Johnston's home.

He was later convicted for sex offences relating to this child and two others who lived in the US.

According to documents filed by the US Attorney's office for Northern California, a hard drive seized from Johnston's bedroom contained more than 500 folders labeled with different girls names.

The majority of those 500 folders each appeared to contain images and videos of child abuse which no law enforcement investigators had previously encountered - suggesting they were all victims who Johnston had encountered and groomed personally.

At their latest count, US law enforcement investigators had identified 94 minor victims, from at least 30 states and six countries - including Ireland, the UK, Australia and Malaysia - who Johnston had lured into creating child pornography or sexually exploited online.

Gardaí later played a role in the investigation into Johnston's activities, alongside a number of international police agencies and US Homeland Security, with the latter agency leading the probe.

Gardaí did not respond to RTE's request for comment on the case. Either did the lawyers representing Johnston.

Johnston told the police under questioning that he contacted children using messaging apps and websites.

There was no suggestion in the court documents that the technology companies behind these websites or apps were in any way complicit in their misuse.

None of the child victims of Johnston's internet abuse were required to give evidence to the US court and prosecutors told the judge that they had limited the sample of cases on which he was charged to spare what would otherwise have been a large number of child victims the distress of having to give evidence in court.

Read more news of Dublin on our site.

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