Maries County sheriff warns public of dangers of online dating

A Belle man faces criminal charges after he was accused of forcing a victim to have oral sex with him by gunpoint, according to the Maries County Sheriff’s Office.
Brandon L. Campbell, 37, has been charged with felony first-degree sodomy and false imprisonment, a Class A misdemeanor.
The charges come after a lengthy investigation by members of the sheriff’s office who looked into a report of sexual assault. Sheriff’s deputies were told that the victim and a man met after making contact on craigslist.
According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, the two had been talking online about sex for a week. The sheriff’s office was told that funds were going to be disbursed for sex.
The victim reported that the male suspect sent the victim pictures of another person.
Then when the victim entered the suspect’s residence, the door was locked behind them. The victim reported that the suspect threatened to have a gun and forced the victim to perform oral sex on him.
The suspect also stated that he was a law enforcement officer and displayed a law enforcement shirt.
Campbell remains in the Maries County Jail on a $50,000 bond.
Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman said he discourages the use of craigslist personals or dating sites to meet people because “you never know exactly who you are meeting, but if you are going to do it please be safe about it.”
Heitman stated that people who consider meeting people in person that they have met online should exercise caution and safety before, during and after meeting their potential mate. He said that interactions on dating sites are governed by the amount of information being shared.
“If a man claims to be a woman with two kids, nothing can dispute this fact until the couple meets for the first time, face to face,” Heitman wrote in the news release. “The danger of misrepresentation like in this case is very dangerous. This tactic is something a lot of predators use to lure their victims like Campbell did.”
Heitman warned the public that online daters should be wary of overseas scammers, married men or women seeking affairs and potential stalkers.
“A number of people use online dating sites or personal ads to seek partners they can begin relationships with, only to scam them for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars,” the sheriff wrote.
Heitman wrote that cyber-stalkers can use Internet dating sites or personal ads to make contact with people and then spam their email boxes, steal their identities or begin stalking them in real life.
Heitman reminded users of online dating sites to “never give out personal information like home address and telephone numbers before meeting the person face to face. Always plan first, second and sometimes even third meetings in public places.”
The sheriff also reminds online dating users to tell someone before going out on the date and be sure that a friend or family member is aware of where you are going, who you are going with and what time you plan to be back.
He also advised people to always take their own transportation to and from the meeting.
“Trust your instincts. If a first meeting with a person makes you uncomfortable or uneasy, trust your instincts. It's better to be safe than to be sorry,” he said.