• The 27-year-old accused met the minor on Snapchat in May 2020
  • The accused got victim's name and date they met online inked on his arm
  • Accused texted victim's mother claiming he had been dating her daughter for a year

A 27-year-old Florida man was arrested for traveling across the state and allegedly raping a minor he met online.

On Monday, Erick Rabelo was arrested by Polk County Sheriff’s office shortly after he flew into the Orlando International Airport from where he was planning to travel to meet the 15-year-old girl.

Deputies started investigating the case Monday after the victim’s mother received a text from Rabelo claiming that he and her daughter had been dating for more than a year. He also alleged in the text that he got the minor pregnant, reported WTSP.

According to the police, Rabelo met the minor on Snapchat in May 2020. In July of this year, he traveled to meet the teen in her hometown, where he rented a motel room and sexually assaulted the girl.

The teen told the police that Rabelo had come to her home during his July visit and forced himself on her.

Rabelo had previously sent the victim several texts, according to the investigators. In two of the texts recovered from the victim’s phone Rabelo stated, “You’re right I did rape you” and “I’m a pedophile,” reported WKMG.

“The victim’s mom did the right thing by immediately calling us. The detectives working this case were thorough and swift, getting a dangerously twisted man behind bars. This guy is so messed up that he actually got a tattoo on his forearm with the victim’s name and the date they met on Snapchat,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, according to the outlet.

After the arrest, Rabelo admitted to forcing himself on the victim, said police. He is being charged with lewd battery, traveling to meet a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.

“Parents, please monitor your children’s online activities,” Judd further said. “Make sure there are parental controls on any electronic device your children have access to.”

According to the UN, millions of children have become vulnerable to online grooming since the onset of the pandemic. More families are adopting digital screens to help children learn and stay entertained. “But not all children have the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to keep themselves safe online,” said Dr. Howard Taylor, Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children. An estimated 500,000 predators are active online every day, reported KOAA. According to the FBI, more than 50% of victims of online predators are aged 12 to 15 and about 89% of victims are contacted through chat rooms or instant messaging.

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