A Texas man who police say pretended to be a representative for modeling agency so he could sexually assault an underage girl at her home in December is now in custody.
Joel Christopher Acuna is accused of first-degree aggravated sexual assault of a minor after the 27-year-old allegedly masqueraded as a modeling consultant on a popular online video sharing platform in order to arrange a meeting with the young girl, local police said.
The alleged attack occurred in the late morning hours of Dec. 8 when police say Acuna arrived at the unidentified girl’s home after speaking with her on the video sharing platform Likee. Acuna allegedly presented himself as a modeling agent in a chat before making a request for the youngster’s home address.
“The child was contacted on a cell phone by a person using the LIKEE app under the pretense of becoming a model,” police said in a statement.
The child passed off the address of her home, under the belief that Acuna was to come by to conduct a “personal evaluation” of her. Surveillance footage showed a man believed to be Acuna arriving at the girl’s house in a Hyundai hatchback shortly before noon that day. Acuna then allegedly entered her home and carried out the attack, according to police.
Authorities didn’t specify the nature of the attack and released few other details, other than stating the girl was under the age of 14. A spokesperson for League City police confirmed, however, that the victim’s parents were cooperating with police.
The 27-year-old turned himself in around 10 a.m. on Tuesday after police released photos of him on social media.
“He corroborated our evidence and he was placed under arrest,” League City police spokesperson John Griffith told The New York Post.
A video obtained by the Galveston County Daily News appears to show Acuna walking into League City Police Department and surrendering himself on Jan. 28. He allegedly confessed and was quickly booked.
“That’s me on Facebook,” KHOU reported he told officers.
Acuna is being held on a $250,000 bond, police said.
Likee, a Chinese app which is similar to TikTok, incorporates a GPS function on its platform, which allows users to connect with others who are geographically near them.
“Most parents don’t realize that these apps have private messaging features that people can direct message you through the app and that’s what happened in this situation,” Griffith said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Children don’t often make the right decisions and as the parents, it’s your job to make sure the kids understand the consequences and that the devices that they use are locked down. This can’t happen.”
Formal charges haven’t yet been handed down and no court date has been scheduled for his case as of yet, according to the Galveston County Clerk’s Office.
The Texas City man doesn’t appear to have a past criminal history, court records show.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.