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Man charged with soliciting teens online

Mar. 15, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

PEA RIDGE -- A man living off East Pea Ridge Road has been jailed on charges that he used social media and cell phones to solicit teenage girls in Ohio, according to West Virginia State Police and court documents.

State troopers believe the case should serve as reminder for parents to closely monitor their children's Internet and cell phone activity.

This week's arrest involves Charles Matthew Cooper, 25, of Huntington. He was arrested late Thursday at a residence in the 5900 block of Baker Road. Police seized his computer and cell phone, said West Virginia State Police Trooper W.G. Hash.

Criminal complaints, filed in Cabell County Magistrate Court, charge Cooper with sending explicit material and images to three, 13-year-old girls and a 14-year-old girl. Hash described the girls as acquaintances all living in south central Ohio whom Cooper had located through social media.

The trooper credited the 14-year-old's father with unraveling the investigation. He said the father had become concerned about his daughter getting punished at school for sleeping in class. He took away her cell phone, reviewed the device and found explicit material.

The father alerted police in Adams County, Ohio, where an investigating officer then obtained a cell phone of his own and started posing as the 14-year-old girl on March 1.

That led to Cooper sending more explicit text messages, unaware of the undercover investigation and believing his messages would be received by the teenager, according to the complaint.

"It's all about parental guidance," Hash said. "They need to monitor what their children are doing ... They need to be aware of who (their children's) friends are on Facebook. It's easy for sex offenders, or anybody who wants to offend, to get on there."

State Police charged Cooper with felony soliciting a minor via the computer, distribution/display of obscene material and use of such material to seduce a child. He was jailed about 6:30 a.m. Friday at the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville.

Magistrate Darrell Black arraigned Cooper and set bond at $300,000.

The criminal complaints state Cooper was aware of the girls' ages. The documents further state he confessed to having conversed with the girls, sending them explicit photographs and enticing them to have sexual intercourse.

Hash said investigators do not believe Cooper met the girls in person, therefore they do not believe any physical contact occurred.

The complaints state the Adams County investigator became aware of Cooper's contact with the three, 13-year-olds during the undercover investigation. One of them indicated Cooper had masturbated while they chatted via video.

The Ohio officer obtained each of the teenagers' cell phones. The four devices were analyzed by digital forensics experts stationed at Marshall University. Their work recovered evidence for the investigation.

Hash said investigators expect to gain more evidence once Cooper's computer and cell phone receive the same analysis.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.



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