DELTON, Florida. – A Cocoa Beach man is in jail after investigators say he used the app to meet a 12-year-old girl twice for sex. The sheriff said the man was posing as a teenager using the popular Wink app.
Volusia County sheriff’s deputies arrested Brandon Donato, 29, on Saturday night after they said he drove to Deltona to reunite with a girl. He faces multiple child sexual abuse charges and is being held on $350,000 bail.
The footage from the TV camera shows how several deputies knock him down near the teenager’s house.
“I pray to God that this son of a bitch (expletive) rots in his jail cell for what he did,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. Anyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty.
Chitwood said the man posed as a 17-year-old and license plate readers showed he visited the 12-year-old twice before being arrested. The conversation spilled over into Instagram posts. According to the sheriff, members of her family found out about this and notified the authorities, initiating an investigation.
Later, an undercover detective posed as a child to arrange an arrest.
“These scumbags are adults, they know exactly what they are doing and prey on the young and vulnerable,” Chitwood said. “[They do this] to make them feel like someone or they were someone and they knew exactly what they were doing.”
The News4JAX I-TEAM looked at the Wink app, which is described as “the best place to make new friends and more.”
Critics called it “Tinder for Teens”.
WJXT trainee Kaitlyn uploaded it on Monday, signed up within a minute, and quickly scrolled through the supposed contacts.
He asked her age and birthday, but did not verify the information independently.
“No ID, no factual verification,” she said.
When Caitlyn tried to enter a younger age, it led her to another app called Soda. This app offers live random chats where users have avatars that hide their identity.
The Wink website states, “The safety of our users is one of our top priorities” and acknowledges that “adults may pretend to be younger and create fake profiles to connect with children. They may try to trick them into talking to them or meeting in person. We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation. Any cases will be investigated and may be referred to law enforcement.”
“I think they have incredibly easy access, especially when parents aren’t monitoring their kids and don’t keep talking to their kids,” Jacksonville FBI spokeswoman Amanda Warford Wydell said.
She said parents should be very careful about their children’s online activity, no matter what app they use.
“I think in many cases, human trafficking starts this way for some young people,” she said. “I will see young people trying to make friends online and then they end up running away sometimes, meeting people. And that’s what leads to other problems with human trafficking.”
Conversation is the key.
List of the most popular social networks and network applications used by children
FBI Child Online Protection Fact Sheet
Preventing Sexual Abuse with Baby Lure Prevention
Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.