Man who ‘catfished’ boys to get naked pictures of them placed on probation bond

Ben Mooney (22) used the name ‘Nicole Heffernon’ to contact teenagers through Facebook

The Judge said it was “very much in Mooney’s control” as to whether a custodial sentence will be imposed.

The Judge said it was “very much in Mooney’s control” as to whether a custodial sentence will be imposed.

 

A young Dublin man who engaged in “catfishing” to lure teenage boys into sharing explicit images of themselves online has been placed on a probation bond for two years.

Garda Daniel Tracey told a sentencing hearing last October that Ben Mooney (22) used the name “Nicole Heffernon” to email and contact teenage boys through Facebook.

Gda Tracey explained that Mooney had been “catfishing”, or pretending to be someone else online, to obtain images of boys in their underwear and naked. The garda said there were also videos of the teenagers masturbating.

Mooney later told gardaí that he had contacted up to 15 teenage boys in the two years before he was caught.

Mooney, of Rathsallagh Park, Shankill, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to knowingly possessing child porn and possessing 4,000 images and 300 videos of child porn on a Samsung mobile phone at his home on January 5th, 2016. He has no previous convictions.

On Tuesday, the court heard that a computer, which had been seized during the original search, has since been analysed and further child pornography was found on that.

The computer had 476 videos of child pornography, which had a total running time of 42 hours. Of these videos, 387 depicted children witnessing or engaging in explicit sexual acts, while 89 showed children’s anal or genital regions.

There were also 39 images of child pornography which also depicted children engaging or witnessing sexual acts, and also children displaying their anal or genital areas.

Judge Melanie Greally had adjourned the case having previously heard the evidence and ordered a report from the Probation Service.

She said on Tuesday that Mooney’s interest in this particular material developed at a stage in his life while he was still a child himself. She noted that it had come to an end by the time it was ultimately detected.

Judge Greally said it appeared that there was need for therapeutic intervention and noted that there was a recommendation from the probation report that he be supervised by the service for two years.

The judge placed Mooney under a two year probation bond. She said it was a serious offence and he must engage with the Probation Service, including attending a sex offender treatment programme and any other courses they deem suitable to address his addiction and educational needs.

Judge Greally remanded Mooney on continuing bail to March 2021. She said it was “very much in Mooney’s control” as to whether a custodial sentence will be imposed after she indicated she would take into consideration the level at which he engages with the Probation Service over the two years.

She told the gardaí and the Probation Service that they could bring the case back before her at any time should they have any concerns.