HELENA -- A North Carolina truck driver suspected of blackmailing a Helena teenager into sending him pornographic photographs has been arrested and charged with sexual exploitation of a child.
Theodore Castine, 53, came to the attention of law enforcement officials in September, after the 14-year-old girl reported to a Helena police school resource officer that she was receiving threatening and harassing text messages from a phone number with a North Carolina area code.
The teen told police that she had been contacted via her Facebook page by a stranger, who asked to exchange "bikini" pictures, according to an affidavit filed by Bryan Fischer, a Helena detective who works with the FBI's Helena office and is assigned to the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Fischer said the teen told officers that, along with text messages, the person sent her photographs of two naked young girls. She said whoever sent the photographs demanded that she send him similar pictures of herself.
The teen said that she didn't know anything about the person who was sending her the photographs and that she didn't want to send him any of herself.
"The teen said that the subject made statements making the teen believe (if) she didn't send naked photographs, like those that had been sent to her instructing her how to pose, the subject indicated he/she was going to find the teen and she wouldn't like what was going to happen when the subject found her," Fischer wrote.
Fearing what might happen, the teenager told police that she felt compelled to send two photographs of herself to the person.
With the permission of the teen and her mother, Fischer accessed her Facebook account and learned that the communication began around Sept. 4 from a person allegedly named Kerry White. The correspondence included the North Carolina telephone number, as well as the pornographic images of the two unknown girls and the requests for photographs of the Helena girl.
Fischer ran a check on the phone number and subpoenaed the phone's records. He also assumed the girl's identity and learned that the person was threatening to share the photos of the teen with her friends by posting them on the Internet unless she sent more of herself, as well as a video.
By the end of September, Fischer learned that the cellphone was billed to an address in Mooresville, N.C., and that Castine lived there. Fischer contacted John Wydra, a special agent with the FBI in North Carolina, who obtained a GPS tracking for the cellphone, which they also learned had Internet access.
The messages seeking more photos of the teen escalated in October, with Castine allegedly telling the teen that he was going to show them to her boyfriend unless she sent the photos and video.
Wydra contacted Castine on Oct. 18 and called the phone number from which the texts were sent, and Castine's phone rang. After being read his Miranda rights, Castine is alleged to have acknowledged that he knew the girl was only 14 years old, had exchanged pictures with her and had also befriended other underage girls.
Castine is in custody in North Carolina; his initial hearing is set for Tuesday before Magistrate Judge David Cayer.
According to information from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Montana, if he is detained after the hearing, he will be transported by U.S. Marshals to Montana for an appearance on the complaint. If he is released, he will be given a report date in Montana for an appearance on the complaint.
The maximum penalties, if convicted of sexual exploitation of a child, are 15 to 30 years imprisonment, up to a $250,000 fine and up to a lifetime of supervised release.