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Student receives hundreds of harassing texts, Hillsborough Sheriff's Office investigates phone app company Pinger

3:00 PM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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Thonotosassa, Florida -- Imagine if your child was receiving harassing texts. And not just a few, but hundreds each day.

It's happening to a group of middle school students at one Hillsborough County school. The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office is investigating, but in the meantime, the texts keeping coming in.

"They are hurting a lot of people's feelings, bringing us down and wasting everyone's time."

Luis Cuevas, 13, calls the texts a type of bullying.  It's a type of bullying Luis Cuevas says he sees every day through texts. Luis says on March 8 the first text came in and went from dozens to a couple of hundred a day.

"The language kept getting worst content more sexual inappropriate language for their age," says Luis father Javier Cuevas.

Then in April, Luis says the harassing texts turn into two death threats, both before a school trip. 

One text, sent on April 30, read: "I'm going to kill you and your friends at the keys field trip. Smirk, smile peace happiness. Bye bye f------- hope you had a good life."

Luis father, Javier, says one of the texts revealed a phone app called Pinger. Javier says it allows the sender to frequently switch telephone numbers, even change identities sometimes posing as another student. Javier believes a student at school is behind it.

"They start at 7 to 8 in the morning and in an hour he receives 10 texts. In the evening, it starts and goes till 10 at night. He'll receive 50 texts in a night," Javier says.

Javier says the texts have turned into phone calls but the caller remains silent. 

One text read, "I will NEVER stop calling."

"You don't know if the person sitting next to you is the one threatening you, saying mean things. You do not interact with anyone you are scared," Luis says.

"They're a threat and a danger," says Scott LaBaw, building administrator at Luis' school Terrace Community Middle School.

LaBaw says Luis is not alone. He says about two dozen other students at the school are receiving the same harassing texts.

"The blame really lies with the people who create these anonymous sites," says LaBaw.

Luis's father and school officials turned to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office to investigate.

"They can hide behind these accounts," says Sgt. Jesse Warren with the Hillsborough Sheriff Office. 

Warren says even law enforcement has a tough time with these cases.  

"There aren't any specific laws at this point to help us get the information of the people generating these accounts. The next day they delete it and the companies don't keep records."

The sheriff's office has reportedly subpoenaed Pinger for the records behind the 20 phone numbers connected to these texts. The company has up to 90 days to respond. 

So, what can these parents do? Some students have had to change cell phone numbers but, other than turning to law enforcement, deputies say there's not much else one can do and that's what parents and school officials say is so frustrating.

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