A TRAINEE teacher used teenage aliases to con Wearside children into sending him naked photographs of themselves.
Mature Sunderland University student Craig Nelson set up fake accounts on social networking sites, and pretended to be a 14-year-old bisexual girl named Jessie J, as well as other young male and female identities.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 30-year-old married dad used the bogus identities to try and persuade his virtual “friends” to send him naked photographs of themselves.
In exchange he sent them explicit pictures of a teenage girl, who he claimed to be.
When one girl agreed to his indecent request, but refused to keep posing for pictures to him, Nelson threatened he would post the photos he had of her on to the internet.
When the frightened youngster informed her mother of her plight the police became involved and the full scale of Nelson’s deception was exposed.
The court heard between 2009 and 2011 Nelson had targeted girls and boys, who all lived on Wearside, in similar ways.
The court heard when the victims found out the true identity of the friend they thought they knew and trusted, said she felt “sick.”
Another said she was left feeling “very foolish” and feared leaving the house.
One victim said she felt “scared” when she found out who Nelson really was.
The nine youngsters befriended by Nelson were all aged between 11 and 13.
Nelson pleaded guilty to inciting children to engage in sexual activity and distribution of indecent photographs.
Judge Michael Cartlidge said: “He picked on boys and girls, all aged 11, 12, 13 sort of age and persuaded most of them to reveal secrets about their intimate thoughts and on many occasions show nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.
“I have read the impact statements and it is obvious how seriously the case has impacted on them.
“They were devastated to discover the person who was posing as a 12 or 13-year-old girl was in fact this 30-year-old man training to be a teacher.”
Judge Cartlidge said society would benefit more by Nelson receiving sex offender treatment in the community than him serving a prison sentence where his problems would not be tackled.
Nelson, of West Cornforth, County Durham, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years with supervision.
He must abide by the terms of a sexual offences prevention order for five years and sign the sex offenders register for 10.
He will be automatically barred from working with children.
Robin Patton, defending, said Nelson’s behaviour was “baffling”.
He added: “He didn’t meet anyone or ask them to engage in a sexual act.”
Mr Patton said Nelson had befriended and received similar pictures from adult women, and had been able to describe houses and clothing to the victims, simply by viewing their pictures displayed online.