OnlyFans Messages Results in Broward Man’s Arrest
April 7, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Sex Crimes, Social Media Social Share
It is important to remember while social media can be a fun, free place to share our thoughts and ideas, it does not make it private. More than that, it does not mean that our posted content cannot be used against us in court. It’s quite the opposite—communication from social media sites is legal to use as evidence in court.
To read out post on the Negative Impact of Social Media, find our page here.
In one recent Florida case, a Broward Man’s messages on OnlyFans ended with his arrest and multiple criminal charges. This page will provide details from the case, along with relevant information pertaining to social media and incriminating content, and how police can obtain it.
What was the Incident?
Christopher Hall Varney, 59, has been arrested and charged with three counts of child pornography possession, in addition to a charge of distributing harmful material to a minor within 2,500 of a school.
According to the report, police began investigating Varney after the site OnlyFans sent a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on his account from May 2021. Varney ran an OnlyFans account where he posted videos of anonymous sex meetups between himself and other men.
However, the site became concerned regarding messages Varney had sent to another OnlyFans user. The report claims that beginning in September 2020, Varney began messaging one user regarding his “youngest sexual partner.”
Varney allegedly messaged the user asking if they had any videos containing “y0ung” people, and using the “0” instead of an “o” in an attempt to avoid flagging.
In the messages between Varney and the other user, Varney alluded to engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old boy. Varney also provided tips to the other user on how to avoid age becoming an “issue” during meetups.
According to Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), another user offered to make a video involving 14- and 15-year-olds, and then proceeded to send Varney eight files containing CSAM which depicted minors between the ages of 8 and 16.
In one message, the other user asked Varney if he had any issue with the ages of those depicted. Varney’s response stated, “you asked if I MIND if they’re too yng. Too yng? What’s THAT? Lol”
However, deputies stated that Varney denied accepting material depicting children as young as toddlers.
Although Varney didn’t send any of the messages containing CSAM, he both requested and received the images, along with discussing his attraction to children, “to include the specific sexual abuse a child would endure if left under his care.”
Police obtained a warrant to search Varney’s home in May 2022. By that time, Varney had already deleted the OnlyFans account. When police questioned him about the illegal content, Varney admitted to receiving CSAM and talking with “a guy who was into younger kids,” but he claimed he “didn’t want to make any of his subscribers feel like he was shaming them.” He told detectives he was not sexually attracted to children.
After reviewing the rest of Varney’s devices, police found no other traces of CSAM. However, the messages from OnlyFans were enough to arrest and charge Varney with possession of child pornography. In Florida, possessing child pornography can result in a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
Varney was also arrested for distributing material harmful to a minor within 2,500 feet of a school, due to his house being located a half-mile away from a Florida elementary school. In Florida, this type of crime is also considered a third-degree felony.
Social Media and Incriminating Messages
Every day people post personal images, videos, and messages on social media. Today, anyone with social media is aware of the risks when posting something publicly online. However, it may not be as clear when it comes to messages that users assume are private.
What’s important to note is that even if you have sent a message listed as a “private message” or “direct message,” the police are still capable of obtaining that information with a search warrant.
A search warrant is a court order signed by a judge or magistrate that issues authorization for police officers to conduct a search of a person, location, or vehicle for evidence linking a person to a criminal offense. In other words, police first need a search warrant to search your house or car. The same goes for the content on your private social media account.
However, one thing to note is that officers do not need a search warrant if you have given them consent to search. If a police officer questions you about a search, it is in your best interest to say no until they have obtained a court-ordered search warrant. Contact a Sex crime defense attorney if you or a loved one have been contacted by police for a search.
Warrants for Social Media
If law enforcement believes there is incriminating content on your social media account, they may obtain a warrant to access the defendant’s account. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Fourth Amendment states that police can be granted a warrant when there is probable cause for information that is relevant to an ongoing investigation. An example of this would be if law enforcement receive a tip that someone has been sending explicit and illegal content to others via social media.
The following is an example of the process law enforcement typically goes through when obtaining a warrant:
- Establish probable cause – Police must first determine that they have “probable cause,” or having enough evidence to believe that a crime has been committed and that the information they are seeking to obtain is relevant to the investigation.
- Draft an affidavit – An affidavit is a written statement detailing the facts and circumstances that support the request for the warrant. The affidavit must be sworn to under the penalty of perjury that the facts sworn in the affidavit are true.
- Present affidavit to the judge – Once written, police will present the affidavit to the magistrate or judge. It is their job to review the affidavit and determine if there is probable cause to issue a search warrant.
- Issue the warrant – The judge will issue a warrant once they have reviewed the affidavit and determined that there is probable cause. The granted warrant will authorize the police to search for and seize the specified evidence.
- Execute the warrant – Police will then execute the warrant by carrying out their search and seizure as authorized by the judge.
One thing to note is that the procedures and requirements may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of warrant being sought by law enforcement. In some emergency situations, police may be able to obtain a warrant quicker, or even without a warrant.
In addition, the following is stated on the site’s Terms of Service:
- OnlyFans has the policy and right to suspend any access to content posted which does not comply with the Terms of Services or the law;
- OnlyFans can investigate any suspected or alleged misuse, abuse, or unlawful use of the website and will cooperate with law enforcement during such investigation; and
- OnlyFans can disclose any information or records in their possession about each user’s account to law enforcement agencies in connection with an investigation of any suspected or alleged illegal activity.
You can read the full Terms of Service here.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
Sending private messages with incriminating content can result in getting arrested in Florida. As seen in the example case above, it was enough for the defendant to receive incriminating content and comment on it to be charged with child pornography possession. Both State and Federal attorneys will prosecute these cases, and the penalties can be life-changing. In addition to paying fines and imprisonment, any person who is convicted of a sex crime will be required to register under Florida’s Sex Offender Registry.
When dealing with these types of criminal accusations, the stakes are entirely too high. Make sure your case is represented by a Tallahassee defense attorney with years of experience who is ready to fight vigorously for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team have represented clients across the state, receiving over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today and receive a free consultation regarding your case. Call us at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key