Steven Fernandez is accused of sexually exploiting a 12-year-old girl, and now police fear that the 15-year-old YouTube star may have used his fame to exploit other young girls.
The expert skateboarder has a huge following on Instagram and YouTube, and was arrested and charged last month for reportedly using his popularity to lure a 12-year-old girl. While police in California normally do not release the identity of minors accused of crimes, they released his name and photo this week in an effort to find out if there may be other victims.
The young victim reportedly told police that Steven Fernandez approached her in a car in mid-November, using his status as a celebrity to lure two young girls into a car driven by his 22-year-old manager, Jose Barajas. Newsweek reported that Fernandez began texting the girl in the coming days, promising to introduce her to celebrities and get her a role on an MTV show in exchange for sex acts with him and two other men, Barajas Keelan and Lamar Dadd, a 27-year-old professional skateboarder.
— Mashable (@mashable) December 17, 2015
— HollywoodLife (@HollywoodLife) December 17, 2015
Police then executed a sting operation, with a detective pretending to be the 12-year-old and asking Steven Fernandez and Barajas to meet at an abandoned house to have sex. They were arrested on arrival, and Dadd later turned himself in to police.
Police said they fear that Steven Fernandez may have victimized other young girls in the same way.
“I have reason to believe that there are 13, 12 and 11-year-old girls who are enamored with Fernandez and went along with things they were not ready to commit to,” the detective told Newsweek. “Twelve-year-old girls are particularly vulnerable to being enamored by fame, and thinking perhaps they too can live a life of glamour.'”
Steven Fernandez is not the first young social media star accused of sexual misconduct. Earlier this year, Vine star Carter Reynolds got in hot water after a video hit the Internet showing what many believed to be him raping then-girlfriend Maggie Lindermann.
The video allegedly showed Reynolds pressuring Lindermann into having sex. She appeared to be uncomfortable, but Reynolds was seen pressing her and saying, “pretend [the camera] isn’t there.”
Carter Reynolds later apologized for the video, saying he and Lindermann had “moved on” after the incident, Hollywood Take noted.
“Yes, saying ‘do it’ a couple times and ‘come on’ was wrong on so many levels,” he continued. “I should’ve stopped asking when she said ‘no’ the first time… and for that I’m very sorry to everyone that I offended and especially Maggie. After that night, Maggie and I were completely fine and just moved on with our relationship.”
But, the backlash from the video was strong. Carter Reynolds generated controversy when he showed up at VidCon, a convention for social media stars of YouTube and Vine to meet fans and participate in panel discussions. Many fans jeered Reynolds, and a complaint from YouTube star Onision led organizer Hank Green to kick Reynolds out.
This set Carter Reynolds off, who went on a rant on Twitter, “apparently i was a threat to the people at the hotel and they were concerned with my safety as well as the safety of the people around me. vidcon had no legit reason as to why i couldn’t be there haha. the vidcon staff treated me like i was some criminal or terrorist. that was very rude and disrespectful for them to do.”
Another Vine star was accused of rape in late 2013. Curtis Lepore was accused of raping his girlfriend, a fellow Vine star who goes by Jessi Smiles. Reports indicated that he raped Jessi while she was unconscious, though the charges were ultimately dropped in an agreement that Lepore enter one year of counseling and complete 24 days of community service.
The two had initially connected through a series of videos directed at each other, later meeting in New York City and again in Los Angeles. During that trip to Los Angeles, Jessi Smiles suffered a concussion while filming a video and claimed that Lepore offered to take care of her. Jessi claimed that she later woke up to find Curtis raping her.
Jessi Smiles said she was also satisfied with the plea deal Lepore reached.”Curtis plead guilty to a felony assault today in court,” she said. “It is no longer going to trial. I am okay with this and thankful for it to be over.”
Steven Fernandez is free on bail after being charged with attempting to coerce the 12-year-old girl into sex.
[Image via Los Angeles Police Department/Newsweek]