At only 15 years old, Steven Fernandez vaulted to fame as a skateboarder and YouTube star.
Now, he has been arrested for using that fame in the alleged sexual exploitation of a minor.
As People reports, Fernandez came to the attention of the Los Angeles police when one of his victims, a twelve-year-old girl, told authorities that he had used his celebrity as a skater to persuade her to get into a car being driven by his manager, 22-year-old Jose Barajas.
According to the police statement, Fernandez allegedly promised to introduce the girl to celebrities and allow her to appear in his (non-existent) MTV special in return for her, “engaging in sexual acts” with Fernandez, Barajas, and 27-year-old Keelan Lamar Dadd.
Fernandez and his manager were arrested after police set up a sting operation. Posing as a twelve-year-old girl, police texted Fernandez and Barajas, arranging to meet them for sex at an abandoned house. When the pair arrived at the location, they were detained.
Detective Ninette Toosbuy concedes that it’s unusual for the police to release the name and photo of a minor child who has been arrested. However, because of the nature of Fernandez’s alleged crimes and the young age of his victims, an exception was made.
“Fernandez and his buddies used his fame and brand to sexually exploit the very girls who made the men rich and famous,” said Detective Toosbuy.
She added that police are “taking exceptional measures to find additional victims because the fate of some young lives may be at stake.”
— Mashable (@mashable) December 17, 2015
Fernandez has been released from jail to his mother and ordered to wear an ankle bracelet. Dadd and Barajas, who were also arrested, have been released on bail.
Police are now urging parents in the area to come forward if they think their child might have been a victim of Fernandez and his conspiracy to solicit sex from minors.
“We want parents to look at the names and pictures of the defendants and ask their daughters if there’s been any contact,” said Detective Toosbuy. “The suspects tended to cruise West San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, and Compton, looking for young girls to solicit.”
For parents of teenagers, Fernandez’s actions are a reminder to be cognizant of what your children are engaging in on the internet.