Man, 57, charged after allegedly posing as 19-year-old woman in online chat group

A Melbourne man who allegedly posed as a 19-year-old woman and disseminated child abuse material in an online chat group called “Sharing is Caring” has been charged by federal police.

The 57-year-old from Lysterfield, in the city’s south-east, was arrested last week and charged with transmitting and possessing child abuse material after a tip-off from US Homeland Security Investigations.

US officers had arrested a person in Boston, Massachusetts and informed the Australian Federal Police that they believed someone in Australia had shared images of children being sexually abused to an online social media chat group.

An investigation by the AFP led to the identification of a 57-year-old man as the alleged user of the account, which purportedly belonged to a 19-year-old woman.

The man’s home was raided by Victorian and federal police on February 12. Officers seized a mobile phone and other electronic devices, which are being forensically examined.

The man appeared for a filing hearing in Melbourne Magistrate’s Court on Friday and will next face court on May 28.

If convicted of the offences he has been charged with, the man faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.

Federal police child protection operations Detective Superintendent Paula Hudson said the arrest was a reflection of the way police work with international partners.

“The consumption, production and dissemination of child abuse material has horrific lifelong impacts on its victims,” she said.

“The AFP, together with our international partners will continue to work tirelessly to protect the most vulnerable in our community – our children.”

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, Kids helpline 1800 55 1800, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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