July 30, 2014 - A 20-year-old Brooklyn, New York man is facing eight felony charges for allegedly blackmailing a 14-year-old Oxford girl into sending him photos of herself in sexually-explicit poses.
Johnny Aptkia Tlapanco was arraigned July 23 in Rochester Hills 52-3 District Court on three counts of child sexually abusive activity (a 20-year felony), four counts of using computers to commit a crime (one is a seven-year felony, while the other three counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years to life in prison) and one count of accosting children for immoral purposes (a four-year felony).
Tlapanco, a student at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York, is currently being held in the Oakland County Jail in lieu of a $25,000 bond.
His arrest was the culmination of a four-month investigation by Oakland County Sheriff's Det. Jon Elges, who's assigned to the Oxford Township substation.
It all happened back in early March.
Tlapanco and the Oxford girl connected through Kik, according to Elges.
Boasting 150 million users worldwide, Kik is an instant messaging app for smartphones that combines texting with a social network. Founded in 2009 and based in Canada, it allows users to talk with individuals and groups, or within a social networking environment. It also allows users to send photos and files.
According to Kik's "Terms of Service" policy posted on www.kik.com, users must be at least 13 years old and users who are between the ages of 13 and 18 must have consent from their parent or guardian.
"About one in three kids actually belong to Kik in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada," Elges said. "It's that big."
Elges said Tlapanco told the girl he had taken control of her cell phone via a virus and if she didn't send him sexually explicit images of herself, he would embarrass her by creating fake photos depicting her head on nude bodies and sending these doctored images to all her family, friends and fellow students.
Fearing he'd make good on his alleged threats, the girl initially acquiesced to Tlapanco's alleged demands and sent him multiple photos of herself.
But after receiving more threats and demands for images, she came forward and reported what was happening to the sheriff's office, according to Elges.
"It wasn't a one-and-done thing," the detective said.
Unlike other messaging apps, usernames, not phone numbers, are the basis for Kik accounts. Tlapanco was listed as an "anonymous" user, according to Elges.
But thanks to information obtained from Kik through a combination of the voluntary cooperation and search warrants, Elges learned Tlapanco's home address and determined he was using a wireless network provided by Kingsborough Community College.
After being served with search warrants, the college provided Elges with information that allowed the detective to correlate the times when Tlapanco was on-line with the times when the Kik anonymous user was in contact with the Oxford girl.
Altogether Elges said the case involved "about a dozen search warrants."
Elges and Sheriff's Det. Jason Louwaert travelled to New York and interviewed Tlapanco.
"He didn't deny it, but he didn't say it happened, either" Elges said.
All of Tlapanco's computer equipment was seized.
"We actually obtained several computers and other electronic devices," Elges said.
An arrest warrant was obtained and he was extradited to Michigan on July 22.
When asked if they discovered any evidence linking Tlapanco to other female minors, Elges replied, "That's still under investigation right now."
"It's still in the exploratory mode, but obviously, we'll be attempting to identify any other victims, if there are any additional victims," he said.
Elges believes this case is a good cautionary tale for parents. He advises them to keep a close eye on their children's computer activity, from e-mails to on-line chats, and educate themselves about what's out there in cyberspace.
"Know what websites they're on and monitor them," he said. "Know what these social websites are. Be familiar with them. Know which ones they're using and monitor what they're doing on them, what they're transmitting and who they're in contact with."
Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford substation, was very pleased with the performance of his detectives in this case.
"I think (Elges) and Louwaert did a fantastic job," he said. "It was a pretty lengthy process."
Patterson noted no money from the township's police budget was expended for Elges and Louwaert to travel to New York on this case. Transportation, lodging and meal costs were all covered by criminal forfeiture funds supplied through the sheriff's office.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.