A 15-year-old YouTube celebrity known as “Baby Scumbag” has been accused along with his manager and a friend of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl, Los Angeles Police say.
Steven Fernandez, his manager, Jose Barajas, and his professional skateboarder friend, Keelan Lamar Dadd, were arrested on charges of lewd and lascivious acts against a minor, police said.
Fernandez, of Compton, was called the “prime mover” in the conspiracy to exploit young girls, police said. In addition to racking up millions of views on his YouTube videos, he is also a skateboarder, and uses social media to promote a popular clothing brand.
Barajas, 23, was released after posting $475,000 bail, and Dadd, 27, posted $200,000 bail. Fernandez was released to his mother and was ordered to wear an ankle bracelet.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Trio Is Accused of Offering the Girl a Spot on an MTV Show in Exchange for ‘Sex Acts’
Fernandez, Barajas and Dadd are accused of luring the 12-year-old victim to engage in sex acts in exchange for a spot on a non-existent MTV show, police said.
Police said the girl told detectives on November 13 that Fernandez called her over to a car on Ventura Boulevard and “used his celebrity as a skater to make an acquaintance” with her and “get her into the car.” Barajas, Fernandez’s manager, was driving the car.
“Fernandez promised to introduce the girl to A-list performers and appear in Fernandez’s non-existent MTV special in return for her engaging in sexual in sex acts with Fernandez, Barajas and Keelan Lamar Dadd.”
Detectives set up a sting operation, posing as the 12-year-old girl and arranging via text to meet at an abandoned home for sex, police said. The trio was then arrested.
“Fernandez and his buddies used his fame and brand to sexually exploit the very girls who made the men rich and famous,” Detective Ninette Toosbuy said. “We’re taking exceptional measures to find additional victims because the fate of some young lives may be at stake.”
2. Police Made the Rare Move to Release Fernandez’s Name in Hopes of Locating Other Victims
Police made the rare decision to release Fernandez’s name and information about his arrest despite his age. Information about the arrests was released on Thursday, about a month after the sting.
“Yes, it’s unusual that we would release the name and photo of an arrested minor,” Detective Ninette Toosbuy said. “But state law provides for such exceptions in cases where the perpetrator sexually targeted minors.”
“We want parents to look at the names and pictures of the defendants and ask their daughters if there’s been any contact. The suspects tended to cruise West San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, and Compton, looking for young girls to solicit,” Toosbuy said.
Police said anyone with information should contact them:
Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Det. Ninette Toosbuy, West Valley Detectives, at (818) 374-7718. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7(877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.
3. Fernandez Has 700,000 Subscribers to His YouTube Channel
Fernandez has been posting videos on YouTube and on social media since 2012. When he was 13 he was featured in a “Frontline” documentary on PBS about teen social media stars.
He also promotes the skateboarding apparel company Honey Brand, along with Dadd.
He also has 177,000 followers on his Twitter page and 1 million followers on Instagram.
4. The YouTube Star’s Attorney Says His Client Is Also a Victim in This Case
Fernandez’s attorney says the 15-year-old YouTube star is also a victim in this case.
“Steven is just as much of a victim in this case as the other minor involved,” Ryan D’Ambrosio told Newsweek. “I think evidence will show Steven’s celebrity status was preyed upon by the other adults arrested in this matter.”
D’Ambrosio said he was surprised Fernandez’s name was released.
“I was not under the impression that this would be something that occurred,” he said.
Fernandez posted on Twitter, “F**k I feel like I’m letting so many down,” after police released information about the arrest.
“Please don’t ever give up on me,” he said in a second tweet.
5. Dadd Says He Is ‘Innocent’ & Would Never Do What Is Being Alleged
Dadd took to social media to defend himself, claiming he is innocent.
“I ask that you please hold your judgement of me until all of the facts come to light and the truth is uncovered,” Dadd said. “I am innocent. I could, nor would I ever, do any of the things that are being alleged. To those of you who have reached out offering your support, words cannot express my gratitude.”
Barajas, or an attorney representing him, could not be reached for comment.