By Jaime Lutz
North Carolina police have launched a state-wide investigation into naked pictures of teenage girls after receiving several tip offs about lewd Instagram accounts.
One teenager was arrested Friday and charged with cyberbullying in Rowan County for sharing a nude photo of a 15-year-old girl, while police in other counties are looking into as many as 40 similar Instagram accounts across at least nine other counties, investigators say.
Landis police say their investigation was sparked just after Valentine’s Day after officers received several calls and Facebook messages about “inappropriate” Instagram photos of local students at South Rowan and Carson high schools in Rowan County.
“We contacted Instagram immediately and requested these accounts be disabled,” Landis Police Department wrote on their Facebook page. Authorities then slapped networking site Facebook, which owns Instagram, with a warrant ordering that they provide records needed to identify the responsible account owners and photo distributors.
One concerned mother alerted police to an account she found containing photos of teen girls in Rowan County. The mother told ABC News affiliate WSOC-TV in Charlotte she was looking through her kids’ Instagram accounts when she came across a post from a local high school student referencing the nude photos.
“I was mad. I was angry. The mama bear comes out and you want to get to the bottom of it,” the mother, who remains anonymous, told WSOC-TV. “I’m a hometown girl so that was mortifying to see and that anybody could do a search and that’s what you get.”
The mother then took to other social media outlets to warn other parents about the activity, which led to Landis police and other agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigation, getting involved.
Meanwhile, Rowan County Sheriff’s deputies say they were able to back-track an Instagram photograph of a naked 15-year-old girl to Juan Bautista, 17, a student at West Rowan High School.
Police arrested Batista on Friday and charged him with cyberbullying. He was later released on a written promise to appear in court and has since been suspended from school.
Investigators said the unidentified girl originally sent the nude photograph to her boyfriend, but it somehow leaked to Bautista, who allegedly posted it to an Instagram account called “Thesehoes01.”
Authorities are investigating similar Instagram accounts in the counties of Wake, Durham, Pitt, Chatam, Johnston, Edgecombe, Craven, Randolph and Surry. Charges for those found responsible could include pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor, police said.
ABC News could not reach Facebook for comment on Sunday, but police said Thursday that the social networking site had not yet responded to the issued warrants, despite several attempts to contact them. The lead investigator also told a judge the company has been “uncooperative.”