Portsmouth West Middle School Principal Christopher Jordan said he believes the message he posted Tuesday on the school’s Facebook page has reached thousands of people.
“It’s a tip that this topic was near and dear to everyone’s heart,” Jordan said.
It seems somewhat unclear when “Prince Hugo” first surfaced on Facebook pages viewed by students at the school.
On Friday, Jordan said nine students had come forward saying they had some degree of contact with “Prince Hugo” via Facebook. That contact ranged from simple friend requests to conversations culminating in a request from “Prince Hugo” for student pictures. At least one student took part in a FaceTime session with “Prince Hugo.”
“That’s how we know he is a man,” Jordan said.
Naming himself after a cartoon character on a Disney Junior TV show, “Prince Hugo” had been passing himself off as a teenage girl and submitting friend requests to students at the Portsmouth West school. The student who took part in the FaceTime session with the alleged Facebook predator brought the situation to the attention of school authorities. Since then, the Scioto County Sheriff’s office has also become involved.
Jordan said at one point, school officials became aware “Prince Hugo” had hacked into a student’s Facebook account and taken control of that account. He was then able to send messages to others in the name of the student who’s account he had hacked.
According to the sheriff’s office, the case is being investigated by Det. Jodi Conkel, who did not immediately return a phone call.
Jordan said the sheriff’s office had electronically traced the deceitful Facebook page to a location somewhere in the Middle East.
“That doesn’t mean the person is necessarily located in the Middle East,” Jordan said. “But there is a Middle East connection.”
On his Facebook page, “Prince Hugo” states he is from South Carolina. He has been identified by the student who FaceTimed with him as a man in his 30s or 40s.
During a conversation with the Daily Times on Friday, Jordan again and again emphasized his chief concern is for student safety. Jordan said school officials held assemblies with each individual grade at the school on Friday. He said the school made use of the old idea of “stranger danger.”
“We told students, you wouldn’t let a stranger into your house. You wouldn’t hang out with a stranger at the mall. Why would you do that online?”
Jordan added, for the most part, students seemed very receptive to the message of their teachers and administrators
“They actually seemed very concerned,” Jordan said.
Students were asked to go home that evening, sit down with their parents and go over what is on their cell phones. Jordan said he expected some students would delete materials off their cell phones prior to showing those cell phones to their parents. But he also added the goal was to initiate a discussion between parents and students about those students’ online activities.
On Friday, Jordan added there is no way at this point in time to know the real motives of “Prince Hugo.” Was he after pictures or were the conversations he initiated a prelude to something far more sinister? Jordan talked a bit about human trafficking, referencing a recent well-publicized case which surfaced in a suburb of Columbus.
“That was pretty close to home,” he said.
A Facebook search for “Prince Hugo” by the Daily Times turned up nothing suspicious. That does not mean the predatory site is still not online. Jordan said he was able to find the site at one point but was unable to obtain complete access because he had not friended “Prince Hugo.”
Jordan’s Facebook post regarding “Prince Hugo” was still available on the school’s Facebook page late Friday afternoon.
“Please talk with your child about this matter as safety is our greatest concern,” the post concludes.