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Former Rockaway resident held in Web porn bust

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A former Rockaway resident was indicted last week for allegedly using the Internet to sexually exploit and, in one case, blackmail girls into exposing themselves to him, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Philip Hawthorne, 27, was charged on several counts last Thursday, including use of a child in a sexual performance, promoting sexual performance by a child and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the DA.

Hawthorne, who was living at 140 Beach 123rd St., is accused of engaging in explicit electronic communications with three out-of-state girls, who were between 9 and 14.

"There is a national connection to this case which frighteningly shows the far reach of the Internet and the ease in which sexual predators can gain access to young children," the DA said in a statement.

Hawthorne allegedly began trading instant messages with a 13-year-old Massachusetts girl in November and pretended to be a 16-year-old boy named Keith, according to Brown. He is charged with asking the girl to provide him with her personal information and naked pictures of herself, the DA said.

The girl also sent Hawthorne a video of herself and her 9-year-old sister in which they were both naked, Brown said.

In February, Hawthorne allegedly assumed the name "Keith Singleton" and communicated with a 14-year-old Illinois girl through various social networking sites like MySpace, claiming he was 16, according to the DA.

He was able to get the girl to give him personal information about herself and her family and send nude photos, Brown said.

When Hawthorne allegedly coerced the girl to make a video of herself stripping, she refused to send it to him and the he threatened to post her nude pictures and personal information on the Web, Brown said.

Police were later informed about the incident and on July 2 officers raided Hawthorne's Rockaway home, where his mother still lived, the DA said. The woman told the authorities that her son had moved to Connecticut to live with his father in Connecticut two months earlier and taken his computer with him, according to the DA.

Hawthorne was arrested later that night in Connecticut and extradited back to Queens July 9. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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