Social media group helps police nab potential child predator

Police allege a 41-year-old Mayville man was on his way to meet a 15-year-old girl for a sexual encounter Friday.
But the underage girl in this instance didn’t exist. And now the man is behind bars.
Justin Lee Fountain is presently lodged at the Tuscola County Jail on a $200,000 cash bond. He was arraigned Monday afternoon on 30 felonies – 15 counts each of using a computer to commit a crime with a maximum penalty of four years or more and accosting a minor for immoral purposes.
Last week, a Facebook group called 989 Child Predator Exposures contacted the Caro Police Department to inform it of indecent text messages sent to a “spoof” cellphone, operated by a member of the 989 CPE group, according to Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene.
“The group initially contacted the Caro Police Department who was extremely responsive,” Reene said. “The first time we received information was Wednesday, a meeting was then held on Thursday with members of the group, the Caro Police Department and Prosecutor’s Office. And Friday all the procedures were put in place to apprehend that suspect.
“It was good work between the Caro Police Department, Michigan State Police and Thumb Narcotics Unit.”
Fountain was arrested by the Michigan State Police Friday, allegedly as he was on his way to meet the nonexistent 15-year-old at a mid-Michigan Taco Bell. His 2-year-old son was in the vehicle when he was pulled over.
According to its Facebook page, 989 CPE is “a group of people exposing online child predators and exposing them LIVE on Facebook for parents, children, and most importantly, law enforcement!”
The group covers Michigan’s 989 area code, while other groups, such as 517 Child Predator Exposures, attempt to expose child predators in other areas of the state.
The 989 CPE member that communicated with Fountain explained the back-and-forth she had with the suspect.
“Around Sept. 16 (989 CPE was) on a social media dating app, it was not Facebook, we had a decoy profile set up,” said the 989 CPE member, who asked not to be identified. “Justin had sent me a friend request and as soon as I accepted he started messaging me through that website.”
The member said she gave Fountain a “spoof” cellphone number, that she only uses for 989 CPE business, and began exchanging text messages with Fountain. The profile on the social media dating sight listed the 15-year-old as a 22-year-old. However, after just a few exchanged text messages, the 989 CPE member told Fountain that she was actually 15, and not 22.
After finding out that the girl was underage, Fountain became more interested, the 989 CPE member said.
“The conversation turned to a sexual nature maybe two to three days after we told him we were underage,” the member said. “And he actually admitted in text messages that he had talked to underage girls before.”
Neither the 989 CPE member, nor Reene, believed this was the first time Fountain had interacted with underage girls.
“Our information is that he’s had contact with other minors,” Reene said.
At Monday’s arraignment, Fountain told Tuscola County Magistrate Joseph Van Auken that he moved to Mayville about three years ago, and lived the previous 19 years in Columbus, Ohio. He said he is married and has a 2-year-old son. He said he had never been convicted of a crime and requested a court-appointed attorney.
“(Fountain) was completely honest, he told me he had a wife, he told me his wife’s name and that they have a 2-year-old son,” the 989 CPE member said. “He claimed that they were in an open relationship and that he was going to meet someone on Friday.”
The 989 CPE network contains several thousand people, the member said. When setting up fake online profiles, the group uses photos of group members that look young, or of group members when they were younger. All photos used are of adults who are presently at least 18 years of age.
Reene said cases like this bring the dangers of being online back to the forefront.
“Whenever you have a case like this, it creates one more opportunity for parents to sit back and think about what they can do to continue to have as much oversight, and review, and scrutiny of who their kids are contacting or being contacted by on the internet, by text, instant messaging and every form of social media known to mankind,” Reene said. “Which of course is more than we can count.”
He added that it is important for parents to talk to their children about caution while online.
“Discussions are absolutely crucial because predators are everywhere,” Reene said. “Before, the access was limited, and now there are no limits. These situations are really frightening, you have absolutely no idea who that person is on the other end of an electronic message.”
Fountain is scheduled for a probable cause hearing Monday at 8:15 a.m. and a preliminary exam on Oct. 15 at 8:30 a.m.
Investigators don’t believe this is an isolated incident and suspect Fountain may have been in contact with other children. They ask that anyone with information on additional potential wrongdoings by Fountain contact Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Hook, of the Michigan State Police post of Caro, at 989-673-2156.

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