A California college student used Snapchat’s gender-swapping filter to pretend he was an underage girl and caught a San Mateo police officer, allegedly looking to hook up with a teen.
Ethan, a 20-year-old from the San Francisco Bay area, created a fake account on Tinder in a bid to track down predators online and across social media, NBC Bay Area reported.
Using a Snapchat photo altered to make him look like a woman, the college student pretended to be a 19-year-old named Esther and started chatting people up on the popular dating app. He eventually connected with a man, later identified as San Mateo Officer Robert Davies, and traded messages with him in early May.
“I believe he messaged me, ‘Are you down to have some fun tonight?’ and I decided to take advantage,” said Ethan, who did not give his last name for fear of retaliation.
The pair would go on to talk through the Kik messaging app, where Ethan explained to the officer that he lied about his age so he could use Tinder. Police said screengrabs of their conversation showed Davies was still willing to engage in sexual activity with Ethan’s phony profile – even after the catfisher revealed his character was only 16.
Ethan messaged with the officer for more than 12 hours before passing Davies’ messages along to Crime Stoppers. He later told authorities he set up the account because he had a friend who was molested as a child.
“I was just looking to get someone,” he told NBC. “He just happened to be a cop.”
San Jose police arrested 40-year-old Davies for communicating with a minor with the intention of engaging in sexual activity. He was booked into the Santa Clara County Jail.
The San Mateo Police Department in a statement said Davies, who was recently recognized for his police leadership, was off-duty and in another county when the conversations unfolded.
“The alleged conduct, if true, is no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a Department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole,” San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said.