An 18-year-old man was charged Friday with using his 14-year-old girlfriend, who ran away from home in Irvine, to sell nude photos of herself online.
Brendan Michael Zwerling, who was apparently transient, was charged with using a minor for obscene matter: commercial purposes, human trafficking of an underage victim and unlawful sex with a minor three years or more younger than the perpetrator, all felonies. He is also charged with a misdemeanor count of oral copulation of an underage victim.
According to a motion to increase his bail from $70,000 to $150,000, Irvine investigator Nick Kim said the victim’s mother reported her missing Sept. 4.
The teen’s mother said she ran away from home and that she suspected she was selling nude photos of herself online, Kim said. The mother’s only way of contacting her was through the girl’s Instagram account, Kim said.
The teen said she was OK and was living in Las Vegas, but the victim’s mother suspected she was with her ex-boyfriend Zwerling, Kim said.
Police were unable to locate the teen through her Instagram or Snapchat accounts, but when police checked with the defendant’s family, she was spotted in his room Sept. 30 and ran away before police arrived, Kim said.
Tustin police received an anonymous tip about a motel in Tustin where the two may be staying, but officers did not find them there and dropped it until learning of the Irvine missing person’s report and forwarded on the lead, Kim said.
Police determined the anonymous tip came from a friend of the victim’s, who suggested where police might find them in a “clubhouse” in Tustin, Kim said. Police found them in the area and arrested Zwerling on Wednesday, she added.
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