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February 28, 2014

Man arrested for soliciting teen on Facebook

NEW CASTLE — A Shenango Township man has been arrested for allegedly contacting and soliciting a 14-year-old through Facebook.

And a man who allegedly found out about it and tried to stop the online dialog between them also is to be charged. He is accused of trying to extort money from the alleged predator in exchange for not reporting it the police.

New Castle and state police jointly charged Richard M. Werhnyak, 34, of 226 Stickle Road with criminal attempt and unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors in connection with the alleged online conversations.

He was freed from jail on bail Wednesday.

City police said they had learned about the matter when they were contacted Feb. 11 to assist Union Township officers regarding an erratic driver, after Werhnyak had called and told police he was being followed.

The driver, who lives in New Galilee, told police he had been following Werhnyak to get his license plate number after learning Werhnyak had been in contact with a 14-year-old and allegedly was soliciting him for sex.

The man, who is acquainted with the teen, said he took over the child’s Facebook account, posed as him, and talked with Werhnyak, according to reports.

Police obtained the teen’s password and took 26 screen shots of messages between the man and Werhnyak. In one message, Werhnyak talked about using a camper to meet him, and encouraged keeping the conversation between them.

Through Facebook messaging, the man agreed to meet Werhnyak in West Pittsburg, and they got into an argument there when he showed up instead of the teen, the man told police.

Through phone text messaging later, the man told Werhnyak he knows his identity and where he works and that Werhnyak’s wife was going to find out. Werhnyak allegedly offered him $400 not to go to the police and made arrangements for the man to receive the money, which would be placed in a McDonald’s bag and left at a location on East Washington Street, the man told police.

However, Werhnyak didn’t drop the money off and the man told him he was going to contact the police.

Werhnyak called 911 to report he was being followed, and the police became involved.

They arrested Werhnyak, who was arraigned before District Judge David B. Rishel and jailed on $10,000 bond.

Attempted extortion charges are pending against the man who posed as the teen, police said.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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