A San Antonio man has pled guilty to convincing a South Carolina teen to hop on a greyhound bus and drive halfway across the country so they could complete a sexual relationship that had built up online, Newsradio 1200 WOAI.
Robert Christiansen, 57, now faces life in prison on two counts involving luring an underage person across state lines for the purpose of having sex.
The FBI used modern technology to locate the 16-year old girl and rescue her before the pair were set to meet in Houston. Christiansen planned to ride with her on the bus to San Antonio and then take her to his house.
Special Agent Jim Thompson, who was involved in the raid of Christiansen's home, says the case is a prime example of why parents need to play close attention to what their kids are doing online, especially with smartphones.
"It may look completely innocent to parents who just see their kids crouched over their phone," he says. "Meanwhile, they're secretly in touch with someone who wants to lure them away from home."
In court, federal prosecutors played a video of Christiansen's interview with the FBI, who picked him up at the bus station in Houston. "I asked her if she wanted to go ahead and become a runner," Christiansen told FBI agent Glenn Gregory.
In online chats Christiansen, would pose as a psychologist. He admitted to FBI agents he deliberately began grooming the girl, telling her that if she came to live with him in San Antonio, he could cure her depression and she would not have limits on social media.
Bob Sanborn, who heads the Texas-based group Children at Risk, says these types of predators have become highly skilled at the way they speak to vulnerable teens online, where they can be anonymous.
"It's like breaking down barriers. It's making the child feel okay. There's no 'stranger danger' here. The child starts to think of this person as a friend or a buddy when this person is a predator."
In that video, played in court, Christiansen told FBI agents he knew the victim was a minor and he didn't see anything wrong with luring her away from home.
"It's not like I committed a crime, or theft, or worse."