(Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from the Ocean City Police Department printed in its entirety.)
OCEAN CITY — As winter break approaches, the Ocean City Police Department wants to remind parents and caregivers of the dangers children face with social media and online chat applications.
The Ocean City Police Department and the Worcester County State Attorney’s Office just successfully closed an investigation regarding inappropriate sexual conversations that took place between a juvenile located in Ocean City and an adult in Tulsa, Okla.
Wyatt Andrew Johnson, 24, of Tulsa, Okla., pleaded guilty to one count of publishing/distributing obscene material on Nov. 27. The Ocean City Police Department began investigating Johnson in June 2020 when Child Protective Services (CPS) referred the case.
During the investigation, detectives learned the juvenile (14 years old at the time) and Johnson were having an online sexual relationship through numerous chat applications, such as Discord, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and iMessage. Utilizing various law enforcement databases, detectives were able to positively identify Johnson and obtain several months of conversations and records.
Detectives learned they met in a group chat specifically for individuals interested in diaper-wearing and baby role-play. Johnson was aware of the juvenile age. Over several months, the juvenile and Johnson engaged in inappropriate conversations, and Johnson gave “commands” to the juvenile for sexual humiliation.
Detectives applied for charges through the Maryland District Court Commissioner in October 2020. An arrest warrant was issued for Johnson. The warrant was eventually served in October of 2023, and Johnson was held without bond until his court appearance on November 27, 2023. Johnson entered into a plea deal to plead guilty to one count of publishing/distributing obscene material. Johnson was sentenced to one year in jail with all but 39 days suspended. Johnson has been released from custody.
Social media has become a prevalent part of everyone’s life, even our children. Online access can come with risks, like inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and online predators. Using social media applications and websites where kids interact, predators may pose as a child or teen looking to make a new friend.
The National Children’s Advocacy Center provides the following internet safety tips for kids and teens:
1. Spend time having fun with your parents online and helping them understand technology.
- Never post your personal information, such as a cell phone number, home number, home address, or your location, on any social networking site or through mobile apps like Snapchat or Instagram.
- Never meet in person with anyone you first “met” on the internet. If someone asks to meet you, tell your parents or guardian right away. Some people may not be who they say they are.
4. Check with your parents before you post pictures of yourself or others online. Do not post inappropriate pictures of anyone.
- Never respond to mean or rude texts, messages, and emails. Delete any unwanted messages. You may need to delete friends who continuously bother you or post things that are not appropriate.
6. Never share your password with anyone, including your best friend. The only people who should know your password are your parents or guardian.
7. If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, don’t text it or post it online.
- Do not download or install software or anything on your computer or cell phone before checking with your parents or guardian.
- Use the privacy settings of social networking sites.
- Talk with your parents or guardian immediately if anything makes you feel uncomfortable online, while gaming, or using your cell phone.
If you are aware of the sending, use, or viewing of child pornography online, you can contact the Ocean City Police Department or call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678 or go online to their CyberTipline. They’ll ensure the info is forwarded to law enforcement officials for investigation.
Watch for warning signs of a child being targeted by an online predator. These can include:
1. Spending long hours online, especially at night
2. Phone calls from people you don’t know
3. Unsolicited gifts arriving in the mail
4. Your child suddenly turns off the computer or other device when you walk into the room.
5. Withdrawal from family life and reluctance to discuss online activities.
The Ocean City Police Department is prepared and proactively handling criminal violations and citizen complaints of illegal activity to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors. We want to remind citizens that if they see something suspicious or have concerns about possible criminal activity in Ocean City, contact us. We encourage you to call our Tip Line at 410-520-5136, email us at [email protected], or contact the Police Department at 410-723-6610.