A child predator who used Facebook and Snapchat to lure a 16-year-old girl from Lindfield to fly to Los Angeles so he could sexually abuse her has been sentenced to 35 years’ jail in the United States.
Sean Price, 40, from Queens, New York, started sending daily messages to the girl on Facebook in 2016. He coaxed the teenager to leave without her parents’ knowledge and, in March 2017, paid for her flights.
A few weeks later she flew on a return-trip ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles where Price was waiting for her. They rented a car and drove across the US to Price’s home in Jamaica, Queens.
Price admitted they had sex during the cross-country trip and while they were in New York.
The teen was reported missing by her family in April 2017.
On May 12, New York police officers visited the house Price shared with his mother after receiving a tip-off from Australian police that the girl had boarded a plane from Sydney to Los Angeles on April 11. The officers caught Price and the girl hiding in the basement.
The girl’s mother said in a submission to the US District Court that her daughter was traumatised and her family continued to struggle with the aftermath of Price’s actions.
Price was found guilty in December 2017 of charges including interstate and foreign enticement to engage in sexual activity and attempted sexual exploitation of a child. He was sentenced on Friday.
US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue, thanked NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police and the New York Police Department for their help with the investigation.
“Sean Price preyed upon the vulnerabilities of a young teenage girl, luring her across the world and away from her home for his own illicit purposes,” Mr Donoghue said.
Federal police acting Commander Joanne Cameron said the case highlighted the reality that children could be communicating online with complete strangers who may be trying to prey on them.
“When our kids are online, we are helping them to discover the wealth of information out there – and this access to technology should never be discouraged,” she said.
“But what we would encourage is for parents to be alive to the risks and to educate themselves, and their kids, about them.”
Price reportedly has a lengthy criminal history, including 11 prior convictions dating back to 1990.
In 1995 he was jailed for criminally negligent homicide after crashing a car at high speed, killing a passenger.
He also had convictions for robbery, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, criminal trespass, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a controlled substance, US Assistant Attorney Monica Castro told the court, Daily News reported.
Price had a young daughter with his estranged wife, Rhyse Price, and played stepfather to her other daughter from a previous relationship.
“This is horrifying”, she told The Mail Online in May last year. “I am broken for my four-year-old daughter. She adores [her father] despite his absence.”
North Shore Police Area Commander Detective Superintendent Allan Sicard said the use of the internet by predators was “an emerging trend and growing exponentially” because the web is so widely used by people of all ages.
“This is a timely reminder for all parents to spend time talking to your children about the dangers associated with online conversations, particularly when communicating with someone they have only ever met online,” he said.
The ThinkUKnow online safety education program has been developed with state and federal police input to help keep children safe online.
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