Calgary police lay several charges, say more could be coming
Warning: This story includes disturbing content
A Calgary mom and dad are reeling after discovering a stranger has been taking photos of their young daughter from the family's social media accounts and, police say, using them to convince others he's a single father who is struggling financially.
Brian Keith Strachan, also from Calgary, has been taking the girl's photos for about eight years and posting them on his own social media accounts, claiming he's been raising her since she was born. The girl is now eight years old.
He even gave her a fake name — Amanda.
Someone tipped the family off after seeing the girl's photo online last week.
CBC News is not using the family's last names to protect the girl's identity.
"I'm just in shock and sickened that this guy has this stuff… I was just in disbelief," her dad, Kenny, said in an exclusive interview.
"It's sickening, gut wrenching," her mom, Tamara, said. "I just didn't really know what to do. It was like we didn't ever want our daughter to leave our side."
The family provided CBC News with dozens of the images from Strachan's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have now been either locked down or deleted.
They show the girl from when she was a toddler up until just a few days ago.
In one, the girl is about two years old and wearing a Wonder Woman costume.
Strachan's post, supposedly in the young girl's voice, reads: "If I grow up to be half the person you are Dad, then I will consider my life a success."
In another, she's wearing a graduation hat and gown after finishing kindergarten.
That post says: "If I can teach my 8 year old daughter Amanada to make money I CAN AND WILL TEACH YOU." It's not clear what exactly Strachan is proposing to teach.
On Facebook, Strachan says he's "single, never been married and [has] no biological kids." He says he became the girl's guardian after "she was born to a 14 year old girl who made a mistake in life." He says he stepped in to raise "Amanda" so her mother could stay in school.
There are also a number of posts where he describes the financial hardships of being a single father.
CBC News also learned Strachan would take part in fundraisers for abuse victims, telling participants and organizers about his young daughter and how they needed money for gas, groceries and more.
"He'd show us [pictures of the girl] on his phone, and of course, all over Facebook. That's what's really jaw dropping about all this… it just left us speechless," said John Graham, the president of one of those organizations, Against All Abuse.
The girl's family was further alarmed upon learning of more than a dozen posts on a chat website — by a man calling himself Brian Strachan — where he describes in disturbing detail disrobing and applying a diaper to his supposed daughter.
It's an usual situation, says acting Staff Sgt. Shelby Stewart, a lead investigator in the case with Calgary Police Services. What's not unusual, she says, is online photos being used for unintended purposes.
"I think we are starting to see more of this, especially as social media progresses and it has become significantly more common within the last 10 years," she said.
Strachan is charged with fraud under $5,000 and two weapon offences — for unsafe storage of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a firearm.
Calgary family shocked after young daughter’s identity used in fraud scheme
Parents of an eight-year-old girl are speaking out after discovering a stranger had stolen their daughter’s social media photos and claimed she was his daughter for years. The man now faces fraud and weapons charges.
Police confiscated a computer, phone and gun from his home yesterday. Investigators are going through the electronics now and say more charges may be coming.
As for the girl's family, they thought their social media photos were protected from strangers, but after that happened, discovered some security settings were not what they thought.
"I thought I was private. And so now, like, we won't be posting. Obviously there are still pictures of our family on there, but we have locked down to friends only."
Police advise families to check their privacy settings on all forms of social media.
Strachan did not respond to calls for comment from CBC News. It is not known if he has a lawyer. He has been released and is due in court on Aug. 9.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosa Marchitelli is a national award winner for her investigative work. As co-host of the CBC News segment Go Public, she has a reputation for asking tough questions and holding companies and individuals to account. Rosa's work is seen across CBC News platforms.
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