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FBI: Woman kidnapped, sexually assaulted girl she met online

Updated: October 11, 2019 10:13 PM

Federal authorities say a South Carolina woman kidnapped a girl from Minnesota and sexually assaulted her.

According to the criminal complaint, 23-year-old Katrina Marie Aliff was arrested last month on charges including aggravated child sexual abuse. The affidavit says Aliff met the girl, who was 11 years old, on the messaging app Amino in March. They also began to use another app called Discord to communicate as well.

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The complaint said the girl's father found the messages in September and destroyed the phone, but the girl and Aliff continued to chat through a tablet. 

According to the complaint, Aliff drove from South Carolina to Minnesota to pick up the girl. It says the 11 year old packed up some belongings and met Aliff at a designated time and place. Aliff then drove them back to her Greenville, SC apartment, where authorities found them the next day.

A judge ordered Aliff to undergo mental evaluation. Online jail records say she's being held at a New York corrections center.

“The number one lure that online offenders use is attention and affection,” said Alison Feigh, the director of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.

She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she’s familiar with both apps but said they aren’t unique.

“It happens across the board in all of the different apps,” she said. “It's less about what the app is and more about the opportunities the app has for one-on-one conversations.”

Feigh said while most kids won’t tell their parents about who they’re talking with online, they may tell their friends.

“A big part of that prevention piece is talking to teens about ‘What if your friend is over their head online, who would you tell? I would want to know I wouldn’t be mad at you’,” she said. “We should be starting to talk about safety, and consent, and body ownership and technology as soon as children are old enough to retain language. It's the same as any other kind of safety.”

She also said many children don't tell their parents when they are in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation online because they're afraid of losing their phone or internet privileges.

KSTP reached out to both app companies. Amino did not respond.

Sean Li, Director of Trust and Safety for Discord, said, “We’re committed to ensuring that Discord is a positive and safe place for all our users. We have a zero-tolerance approach to illegal activity on our platform and take immediate action when we become aware of it. Once we are alerted of any violations we quickly investigate and take action, including removing content, banning users, and shutting down servers. The team is continuously improving our policies and processes, and we are firmly committed to raising the bar on trust and safety on our platform.”

The company told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS users are required to sign a consent form agreeing they are at least 13 years old. 

A spokesperson said they use automated search tools to scan photos and videos to identify exploitative content. They also work with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children if content is flagged either by those searches or a user.

Discord has a parent guide available for more information.
 

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Credits

Callan Gray & Associated Press

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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