Man, 26, accused of luring boy, 12 online

A Juniata man is behind bars on charges he pretended to be a teenager on a popular social media website in an attempt to lure a young boy into a sexual encounter.

Altoona police took Benjamin A. Richards, 26, of 507 N. 10th Ave. into custody Wednesday after an investigation allegedly showed Richards used a bogus Facebook profile to pose as a 16-year-old while engaging in sexual

conversations with a 12-year-old boy.

Richards tried to get the boy to meet him twice over the course of a week in late May, according to police.

Altoona police Detective Cpl. Nichole Douglas said the boy’s mother called police after she stopped her son as he was on his way to meet what the boy told her was “a new friend.”

“She said, ‘Wait a minute,’ and decided to do some digging and uncovered the Facebook messages,” Douglas said.

The messages detail a conversation that started about video games and escalated to sexual subjects, including Richards asking the boy if he wanted to meet and “hang out in their underwear,” according to

the charges filed Wednesday.

“Have you ever hung out naked with a boy before?” Richards also asked the 12-year-old, police noted.

In the messages, Richards allegedly asked the boy about his genitalia and if they could touch each other if they met.

Police indicated Wednesday that the investigation into Richards’ alleged online activities is ongoing, and Richards is also being investigated by other police agencies.

According to court records, Richards told police when questioned that he was “curious” about young boys and used video games to engage the 12-year-old in conversation.

Richards was arraigned Wednesday afternoon by Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Auker and charged with felony luring a child, unlawful contact with a minor and attempted indecent assault as well as misdemeanor corruption of minors.

Bail was set at $35,000 cash with a preliminary hearing slated for Sept. 17 at Central Court.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.