Whisper app may have been used to set up alleged sex crime

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- It's a group messaging phone app billed as a place to "Share Secrets, Express Yourself, Meet New People."

But police say it was also something used by a former Phoenix police officer to set up a rendezvous with an alleged teen victim.

Former police officer Justin LaClere, 32, was arrested at his home in Gilbert after allegations were made that he had committed a sex act with a 17-year-old female on Tuesday afternoon at her home in Scottsdale.

The two had exchanged messages online just prior to the alleged incident.

On Thursday, the information was brought to the attention of Scottsdale police.

During his interview, LaClere admitted to the act and was booked on one count of luring a minor for sexual exploitation and one count of sexual conduct with a minor.

The post that started it all was created by the 17-year-old. She used the cellphone app Whisper to announce: "I want to get pregnant, but I'm only a teen."

Police believe LaClere contacted the teen through Whisper and set up a meeting for sex at her home.

The app allows users to post pictures and text anonymously.

Social media experts call 1-year-old Whisper a sounding board for anything from confessions to inspiration.

"It's advice, questions about relationships, super deep thoughts, very shallow thoughts," said Evo Terra of Sitewire.

With several million, mostly young, users, it's easy to see how predators could be attracted.

"Unfortunately, it gives predators an anonymous way to reach out," said Ken Colburn of Data Doctors. "They're very, very clever.  They know what they're doing and it's easy to manipulate younger folks."

Even though the posts are anonymous, the app allows you to look at posts from nearby and direct-message the poster.

"Even though it's intended to be private, it's very easy for someone to initiate a conversation," Colburn said.

And police say that's how an anonymous post from a teenage girl, allegedly led to sex between her and LaClere.

LaClere resigned from the Phoenix Police Department on Jan. 17, according to Sgt. Steve Martos with the Phoenix Police Department. LaClere was a Phoenix police officer for seven years.