BAY COUNTY, FL — A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged after preying upon young teenage girls online using Snap Chat, the Bay County Sheriff’s Department said.
On February 26, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call for service regarding allegations of a possible sex offense that had occurred that day. The victim was a 13-year-old girl.
“During the course of the subsequent investigation, it was discovered that the suspect, Michael Bell, had been communicating with the 13-year-old victim using the popular messaging app called Snapchat,” the BSCO said.
Snapchat allows users to send pictures, videos, and messages that self-destruct. By sending messages on Snapchat, Bell led the victim to believe that he was also a teenager and much younger than his actual age of 20. Their messaging ultimately led to a face-to-face meeting inside the victim’s home.
“It was then that the defendant did commit sexual acts with the victim,” the department said in a statement. “During the course of the investigation, another victim was identified. This victim was 15 years old. The second victim reported meeting with Bell after communicating with him on Snapchat. They met in both her home as well as his, where the sexual acts occurred. Throughout their communication, Bell again lied about his age.”
Police made contact with Bell, who admitted to the allegations. Bell admitted to lying about his age to both victims.
Subsequently, Michael Lee Bell, Jr., of East 26th Street. Panama City was charged with four counts of Lewd or Lascivious Battery and booked into the Bay County Jail.
Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford urges all parents and guardians to stay aware of any social media sites or messaging apps children are using, as these are used as avenues of communication for those whose sole intent is to prey on children.