West Michigan Students In Trouble For ‘Catfishing’ Teacher
The students created a fake dating site profile and lured their teacher into a relationship that got weird.
At First, It Was The Teacher Who Was In Trouble
The teacher was brought in for questioning by the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department after he was accused by students of sending lurid photos to them, but the investigation shifted when the teacher was able to prove he believed he was sending the photos to a 35-year-old woman he met on a dating web site.
The teacher is employed by the Gobles School District, located west of Kalamazoo. The students involved are from another district that uses programs tied to the Gobles District.
The Students Were Allegedly 'Catfishing' The Teacher For An Unknown Reason
Captain Jim Charon of the Van Buren County Sheriff's Office told WWMT News Channel 3 that the students allegedly set up a fake profile of a 35-year-old woman on a popular dating app, using photos they obtained online.
After establishing contact with the teacher, the students then sent him unsolicited nude photos of the woman, and the teacher reciprocated with adult content of his own.
This type of online deception is known as 'catfishing', where a fictional person is created in an attempt to deceive a victim into believing there is a relationship.
"The students were trying to blackmail the teacher or had some grievance with him," Charon told WWMT.
The teacher had been on placed on leave by Gobles Schools with pay, pending the results of the investigation.
It's not certain how long the catfish attempt had been going on.
The Gobles School District has refrained from commenting on the situation until the investigation is complete.
'Catfishing' Itself Is NOT Illegal In Michigan
Surprisingly, impersonating another person online or even using that impersonation to open a conversation with another person online is not illegal in the State of Michigan.
However, if you then attempt to defraud the person out of money or goods, or threaten to blackmail them, then you can be charged with fraud and/or theft of services.
According to the Kaylor Law web site, even using someone else's photo to create a false persona is not against Michigan law.
The act of using another’s picture and talking to people online is not against the law, but it is often a step towards illegal activities.
Maybe it's time to look into that. It seems to me once you use someone else's photo to portray yourself, you've crossed a line.
Here's why it is called 'catfishing' from the documentary 'Catfish' from 2010, which if you didn't know, involved a woman from Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula who had a tragic backstory. It involves catfish being put in a barrel of cod to keep them agile.
Kaylor adds that 'catfishing' breaks the law when it crosses the following lines:
Using copyright and trademarks illegally, for example, using the copyrighted art of another to impersonate them online
Identity theft that leads to using another’s personal or financial data
Fraud, including asking others to send money or goods
Solicitation of minors or involving minors in a crime
Unauthorized access to a system or network
Recording or taking pictures of people without consent
Damaging systems or computers or introducing computer viruses
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