Bay Area man linked to Oregon teen’s kidnapping charged federally
OAKLAND, Calif. — A Bay Area man suspected of transporting a teenage girl from Oregon to northern California to engage in sex made his initial appearance in federal court Friday morning as law enforcement officials appealed for the public’s help to identify additional underage victims.
Blake Robert Johnston, 41, of Martinez, is charged in a federal criminal complaint filed late Thursday with traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. The charges are the result of an ongoing probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Martinez Police Department; and the Salem, Oregon, Police Department, with substantial assistance provided by investigators in the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
At Friday morning’s hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore ordered Johnston held without bond pending a detention hearing Monday. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.
The filing of the federal charge comes just two days after Johnston was taken into custody at his Martinez home based on a local warrant issued by authorities in Salem, Oregon, accusing him of fondling and luring a 14-year-old girl who had previously been reported missing.
According to the federal criminal complaint, Johnston and the Salem teen met in an online chat room and subsequently exchanged numerous text messages of a sexual nature. Earlier this month the complaint states, Johnston flew to Oregon to meet the victim, where he fondled her in a vehicle during her school lunch break. Then this week, Johnston, accompanied by his juvenile daughter, drove to Salem where he picked up the victim and transported her back to northern California. Based on leads developed by the Salem Police Department, officers from the Martinez Police Department tracked the missing girl to Johnston’s home, where they found the victim in bed with the defendant.
“As this case underscores, parents need to talk to their kids about how to stay safe in cyberspace - cautioning them to always think before they click,” said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “Research shows that one in 25 children ages 10 to 17 have received an online sexual overture where the person attempted to meet the child face-to-face.”
In the wake of Johnston’s arrest, HSI special agents and local investigators are conducting forensic examinations on multiple cell phones belonging to the defendant. Based on their initial findings, authorities believe there may be additional victims. In light of that, investigators are asking anyone who has further information about the defendant or his activities that may be relevant to this case to call HSI’s national toll-free tip line – 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or the Martinez Police Department’s tip line at 925–372–3457.