A man has been jailed after using someone else’s identity to send explicit images unsolicited to 27 different women over WhatsApp.
Graeme Brandon, 43 and of Webster Road in Bournemouth, pleaded guilty to 28 offences of sending an indecent communication and pleading guilty to one offence of unauthorised access to computer data. He was sentenced on Friday 3 May 2019 at Bournemouth Crown Court to 30 months in prison.
Dorset Police received a report of a malicious communication in January 2017 from a woman who said she had been sent an image of a penis over WhatsApp from a man she did not know.
Over the course of the year, Dorset Police received further reports from women who live across Dorset of the same indecent image being sent to them. Many of the victims reported that they received the message shortly after placing an item for sale on Gumtree.
In April 2017 Dorset Police received a report from a man named Steele Saunders who said that his facial image was being used as a profile picture on WhatsApp to portray himself as the sender of explicit images.
Investigations into the telephone numbers used on WhatsApp revealed Brandon was the owner.
It was also established he had accessed Mr Saunders’ Facebook profile, downloaded his photos and used them as his WhatsApp profile picture. Mr Saunders and Brandon were not known to each other and it is not known why Brandon used the profile of Mr Saunders.
Brandon was arrested on Wednesday 4 October 2017 and various mobile phone and computer devices were seized.
Following this arrest he was released under investigation however, Dorset Police became aware that the offences were still ongoing, with the same images of an explicit nature being sent to women using the same profile picture of the innocent male victim.
He was rearrested before being charged with the offences.
His victims were all aged between 27 and 75.
In a victim impact statement, the identity theft victim Mr Saunders said: “The thought that people were doubting me was unbearable. (…) There have been incidents when I was out with my family that people recognised my face and started shouting things towards me.
“I have had my car damaged, nails in tyres and wiper blades pulled off. I have had numerous threats from people who contacted me believing I was responsible and I have felt helpless in trying to clear my name and trying to convince people I was not responsible. As a direct result of what has happened it is hard to put down into words the effect this had had on my life and my mental health.”
Detective Constable Wendy Stout, of Bournemouth CID, said: “Brandon sent these images unsolicited to women who he did not know, causing considerable alarm and distress.
“He also used facial images of a man not known to him as his profile picture. This has had a huge impact on the personal life and wellbeing of the victim Mr Saunders and his family after being wrongly identified as the sender. It has affected his career as a Royal Marine and his everyday family life. He has received threats and damage to his property as a result and hopes the publication of the case helps to clear his name within the community.
“I would urge anyone with additional information relating to this case to please report this to Dorset Police.”