One suspect is in jail, as the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office looks for more alleged victims in a complex cyber-stalking case.
Thirty-one-year-old Sean Michael Vest is charged with 15 counts of aggravated stalking and cyber-stalking. The alleged harassment occurred between December 16 of last year and last Friday, when Vest was arrested.
“Basically, Mr. Vest began a series of harassing text messages and phone calls to several women by pulling their public photos off social media, and continuing to harass them through all hours of the day and night,” said Deputy Amber Bernard, who is leading the investigation. “He then used these photos on some sexual dating websites, along with some graphic images and graphic content.”
Bernard added that the suspect was very specific.
“He noted himself as ‘Mr. Pervert,’” Bernard said. “So any other victims we get along the way, if you get text messages from a ‘Mr. Pervert,’ that’s what this case is specific to.”
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan says Vest is also accused of collecting photographs of victims, including children, from social media sites and selling them to sexual websites.
“We want the public to understand that if you engage in Facebook; any sort of social media activity – if you post pictures of yourself and your children, we sadly live in a world today that there are no protections for you not ending up a victim of an Internet-based crime,” said Morgan.
Assistant State Attorney John Molchan says a special prosecutor will be assigned to the case, adding that one challenge will be the fact that cyber-stalking – or cyber-anything-else for that matter – didn’t exist 20-25 years ago.
“This is one of those areas of the law where the law has not caught up with the technology that is out here,” Molchan said. “This is one of those cases that we will learn from.”
Meanwhile, the investigation is continuing, and Sheriff David Morgan believes others will come forward.
“If you’re a victim or on the periphery of this, please call us,” Morgan said. “We want to ensure that we get the full scope and magnitude of what this case involves.”
Sean Michael Vest is in the Escambia County Jail under $375,000 bond. His initial court hearing is set for February 10.