'Kids are very accessible to people who mean to do them harm’: Convicted sex offenders found on Facebook

Cleveland 19 Investigates

'Kids are very accessible to people who mean to do them harm’: Convicted sex offenders found on Facebook

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - There are 1.5 billion users on Facebook every day. Among those profiles are convicted sex offenders who, according to Facebook, are not allowed to use the platform.

'Kids are very accessible to people who mean to do them harm’: Convicted sex offenders found on Face

It didn’t take Cleveland 19 long to find offenders here in Northeast Ohio. Twenty-six year-old Mason Cole, of Brook Park, is a level one sex offender. He was convicted in 2011 of kidnapping a 14-year-old to engage in sexual activity.

We stopped by his home to see what he had to say. Not at all fazed, Cole responded: “Have Facebook ban me then.”

Cleveland 19 also found 29-year-old, Matthew Swintek, of Brunswick. Swintek, a former band director at Portsmouth High School in southern Ohio, was convicted of sexual battery in June 2017.

He was sexting and having sexual relationships with students. Swintek’s father answered the door when we stopped by his home. He was agitated and asked us to leave.

A minute later, from across the yard, he asked us how we found his son. We told him from the reports when he was a band director. That set him off.

He said, “Expletive you guys. Make sure you put that on TV.” Then, he started talking to us again and gave an explanation.

“The probation officer has all his background, and he said it was fine for him to be on Facebook for his school. He’s attending school now,” said Swintek’s father. We asked for the probation officer’s information. He wouldn’t give it to us.

We found another very disturbing example of a predator on Facebook. Fifty-six year-old, Robert Gale Wojda was convicted five times on child exploitation offenses in Florida, Virginia and right here in Ohio.

Wojda admitted to sending explicit photographs through Facebook. Detective Mary Gary Ford searched his phone and found sexual conversations with a 14-year-old girl in Georgia.

“Part of his probation was that he was not supposed to be on social media of any kinds, whatsoever,” said Ford. Still, there he was using Facebook to engage in sexually explicit conversations with minors.

Ford said, “He indicated that looking at adult pornography just doesn’t do it for him.” Wojda pleaded no contest to electronic solicitation of a minor, and is now serving 20 years in a Virginia prison.

Briana Valentino is a forensic interviewer with Stop Child Abuse Now. “You never know who you're talking to on the other side of the computer. They are online all the time. So, what ends up happening is that kids are very accessible to people who mean to do them harm,” said Valentino.

Even if your child is not on Facebook, they need to be careful and you need to know what sites they are active on. Valentino said, “They also don't realize that if they're on multiple sites then they're accessible through those multiple sites and somebody who's knowledgeable about those things can tie all that information together.”

Cleveland 19 made Facebook aware of Cole and Swintek’s profiles. They were removed within a matter of hours.

They issued us a statement saying, “It’s been a longstanding term within our Terms of Service that states convicted sex offenders are not allowed to use Facebook. When we learn that a convicted child sex offender has an account on Facebook, we immediately remove that account. We may become aware of such accounts from various sources, including reports from our community or law enforcement. Here is additional information about how people on Facebook can report someone on Facebook who is a convicted sex offender: https://www.facebook.com/help/www/210081519032737

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