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Warrant: Mother aided in sting

Man arrested after authorities, parent impersonate 14-year-old girl in texts

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Investigators with the Warren County Sheriff's Office impersonated a 14-year-old girl through text messaging to investigate and arrest a Loudoun County man Monday on charges of indecent liberties with a minor child, utilizing a communications system to take indecent liberties with a minor child and attempted carnal knowledge of a minor.

A search warrant filed Tuesday details how the investigators, working with the girl's mother, led Michael Steven Courtemanche, 47, to a street where the girl he had been texting lives.

He was arrested at the scene on felony arrest warrants. The arrest followed days of online interaction between Courtemanche, the girl's mother and the Sheriff's Office, according to the search warrant.

The investigation began Friday afternoon when the girl's mother told the Sheriff's Office that she had found sexually suggestive texts on her daughter's cell phone from someone identifying himself as "Mike C." The search warrants states the girl's mother impersonated her in exchanges of text messages with "Mike C" to learn his identity and the nature of his relationship with her daughter. The exchange of messages, which took place over several hours Friday, ended around 7 p.m. when she turned the cell phone over to Sheriff's Office investigators.

After receiving the cell phone from the girl's mother, investigator Laura Nelson-Haas of the Sheriff's Office began impersonating the girl in text messages to the suspect, identified in the search warrant as "Mike."

Haas continued exchanging texts, one of which included a sexually explicit photo of the suspect.

On Monday, Haas arranged to meet "Mike" in the evening in the driveway of the girl's residence, where police met and arrested him. Investigator Allen Smoot identified "Mike" as Michael Steven Courtemanche using photographs, cell phone information and motor vehicle registration information, according to the warrant.

Courtemanche is being held in the Warren County Jail without bond. The Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate the case and asks anyone with information to contact Smoot at 635-6100.

The case is the second major crime linked to online communications in Warren County in recent weeks. A 17-year-old girl appeared in Circuit Court earlier this month accused of severely injuring another female in a fight that was triggered several days earlier by online messages.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Layton, who is prosecuting the case, said he has no data on the number of crimes committed using social media "but as a general proposition, as social media have become a more common way to communicate and with all the good things that come with it, it can be used for evil as well as good, and I would expect as it becomes more prevalent, you will see more of that."

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