arrest

Dad busted for fake porn profile of kid's principal

May 25, 2012 at 8:31 PM ET

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office /
Robert Dale Esparza Jr.

When he finally confessed to creating a fake porn profile for his son's assistant principal, Robert Dale Esparza Jr. of Gilbert, Arizona, "sort of laughed," said Dennis Ogorchock, a detective with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Computer Crimes Unit. But soon, Esparza may be laughing from a jail cell.

Last year, Esparza created the profile of Frank Hendricsen, assistant principal of Gateway Pointe Elementary School, where his son attended, using the faculty member's full name and photos as a revenge prank, the detective told msnbc.com in a phone interview.  

Esparza, 34, believed his son's story — that Hendricsen confiscated the boy's iPod and wouldn't give it back, so the father lashed out on the Internet. Sure, he was angry when he first built the profile, but Ogorchock says Esparza "thought (the porn profile) was going to be funny and everyone would get a kick out of it."

When first confronted by the officer, Esparza even tried to claim his son made the porn profile. Given the sophisticated sexual content however — 13-year-old kids don't talk about "swingers" — not to mention the complete lack of grammatical errors, the detective wasn't buying it.

Now, a year after the May 2011 investigation into the fake porn profile and a recent week-long trial, a jury convicted Esparza of computer fraud and identity theft, two felonies for which he may face jail time when he's sentenced June 5. (Msnbc.com has been unable to reach Esparza or Hendricsen for comment.)

"The victim is pretty shaken up about the whole ordeal," Ogorchock said. "His reputation, everything he had worked for his whole career was on the line." The detective said Hendricsen learned about the fake profile on porn website xHamster from a prospective employer who Googled Hendricsen's name after a job interview for a principal position at another school. That's when Hendricsen contacted the sheriff's department.

The profile Esparza posted on xHamster — a video-sharing and online community porn hub — included Hendricsen's full name, photos of both the assistant principal and his wife scraped, or copied, from the Gateway Pointe Elementary School website, and described the couple as "swingers" looking to play.

For further humiliation, Esparza included four photos of male genitals (scraped from Craiglist personal ads, but identified as Hendricsen's), and more than a dozen "favorited" videos on the porn hub, all deliberately chosen by Esparza for their naughty school girl themes. 

And to ensure the incriminating content would be among the first results for anyone who Googled Hendricsen's name, Esparza accessed the profile at least 25 times, Ogorchock said, communicating with other xHamster members and using the profile in the casual encounters section of Craigslist.

The reputation bomb worked so well, the detective quickly tracked down Esparza via the IP address provided by the happy-to-help xHamster webmasters, who also removed the fake profile after Hendricsen contacted the site.

The Internet trail led to a computer which belonged to Esparza's employer — Safeguard, a locally owned, home-security company (where, the Arizona Republic reports, Esparza no longer works). Ogorchock connected Esparza to Hendricsen via the police report the angry father filed against the assistant principal for allegedly taking his son's iPod, an accusation that was never proven.

That led to a warrant and search on Esparza's work laptop, which revealed visits to xHamster, Craigslist, the school website where he scraped the photos, and the Google Gmail account he created using Hendricsen's name. Despite the evidence and the confession, Esparza turned down probation and went to trial, which Ogorchock thinks Esparza did, hoping the jury would be sympathetic to him. Now he'll be lucky if he avoids jail time.

Even as bemused as Ogorchock is by this convoluted tale of iPod-inspired anger, he gets that in the end, it's no laughing matter.

"People who think these kinds of pranks are funny don't really understand how the Internet works," he said. "In this case, who knows what's been done with the information (on the fake profile) before it was taken down, who's seen it and how many copies are out there? Once something's posted on the Internet, it's out there forever."

Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about the Internet privacy. Tell her to get a real job on  Twitter and/or Facebook. Also, Google+.

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