Investigators in Edmonton are looking to speak with about 100 kids who they believe may have been lured and abused by a man charged with more than a dozen sexual offences.
Imesh Ratnayake, 21, was arrested in July on allegations of sexual assault, sexual interference and making and transmitting child pornography.
On Tuesday, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) announced an additional 18 charges including sexual assault, luring a child and obtaining sexual services for consideration from a child.
There are six known victims aged 11 to 13 years old and all are from the Edmonton area, investigators said. Additional victims may be located anywhere in the world.
“There was a degree of transactional behaviour involved in these incidents,” Sgt. Kerry Shima said.
“Our investigative theory is that Mr. Ratnayake was luring the children using things like vapes, marijuana and alcohol.”
Ratnayake contacted the kids on Snapchat, Shima said.
“We need parents to be on board with their kids and their applications and start talking about what these apps are used for. Have your kids teach you stuff,” he suggested.
“Enhancing digital literacy is a really big part of that. Sometimes when we ask our kids to teach us things, it generates a level of trust too.”
‘COMPANIES NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE’
Keeping tabs on kids, their devices and multiple apps is a lot easier said than done, according to a spokesperson with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
“To say that parents need to know, or can know, everything that their child is engaged in online is just unrealistic. It’s an unrealistic expectation,” Stephen Sauer said.
Parental controls can help, as can conversations, Sauer said. He also believes there needs to be more accountability imposed on the operators of social media platforms.
“We’re really trying to get governments engaged in the issue and understand that companies need to be held accountable for this type of activity on their services,” he said.
The Zebra Child and Youth Advocacy Centre is working with investigators and victims in the Ratnayake case. Its CEO also urges open dialogue between kids and trusted adults.
“Just get that seed planted sooner rather than later so the child has comfort in knowing that, you know, this doesn’t feel good, I’m going to talk to my mom or my teacher,” Emmy Stuebing said.
“Who knows what the next social media or app will be? So you can’t always limit the involvement. You might not even know about it. But if your child is armed with the knowledge that there’s people looking out for them and it’s not OK for other people to hurt them, that’s the best protection parents can do.”
Ratnayake is believed to have used several Snapchat profiles under the usernames “islandsauce0129”and “monked.ruffy.” He also uses the name Matt Wintoni or “mattwintoni,” ALERT said.
He is being held in custody.
Any potential victims or witnesses are asked to contact their local police or Crime Stoppers.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Alison MacKinnon
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