SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - Deputies in southwest Florida have arrested a 27-year-old man after he allegedly pretended to be a teen online and traveled to Sarasota to have sex with a minor.
Andrew Michael Brandt of Seminole was taken into custody Thursday by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He has been charged with three counts of lewd or lascivious battery on a victim over 12 and under 16 and three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
According to detectives, Brandt created a Facebook account with the name "Mike Berns" and communicated with young girls. He allegedly met a 15-year-old Sarasota girl on Tagged.com and told her he was 17. In March, investigators say he drove to Sarasota and began a sexual relationship with her.
Brandt is being held on $60,000 bond and will be transferred to the Sarasota County Jail.
Detectives are concerned there may be additional victims who know Brandt was "Mike Berns" or "Andy Berns." Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office at 941-861-4900.
The sheriff's office advises parents to use the case as an impetus to speak with their children about meeting people online and explaining to them that there is no way to know a person's true identity.
"Teach and continually reinforce the importance of being safe online," the department said in a statement.
The department advises parents to ask their children to show them the websites they visit and have them log in to their accounts at various social media platforms and instant messenger services.
"Point out safety concerns as they arise," the department said. "Explain to them that you are not trying to invade their privacy. You are just trying to make sure they are safe."
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