JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Investigators with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office discovered a secret group on Facebook that was predominantly used to buy and sell drugs, and about 170 members of the group were discovered to be minors.
Investigators said the only way parents could see the group would be to log in to their child’s Facebook account and look under their group membership.
“It’s harder when you have high school kids. They don't want to give up that freedom,” investigator Mike Harris said. “But I call it parenting.”
Harris works with the DA’s Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations (CHEEZO) unit and discovered the secret group called Fly Society 420.
He said it started with the mother of a 15-year-old girl who discovered the secret group on her daughter’s Facebook account.
“The 15-year-old girl got in trouble. She got suspended. She has a serious, serious drug problem,” Harris said.
Harris said the girl is seeking help in a rehabilitation facility. When her mother discovered the secret group, she gave Harris access so he could warn other parents.
Harris soon realized the group had 900 members. Some used fake names. But he was able to identify about 170 minors who were members. That included 71 middle school and high school students in the Jefferson County School District. Some were as young as 12 or 13 years old, Harris said.
He said the group was used as a meet-up forum to buy and sell hard drugs, including LSD, cocaine, prescription drugs and Ecstasy.
“All you need to do is take the wrong kind of drug and quantity and we could have a dead kid,” Harris said.
Marijuana also frequently appeared in posts on the page. It is illegal to consume marijuana if you’re younger than 21 years old in Colorado.
Investigators are working closely with Jefferson County R-1 School District staff and school resource officers to contact each identified child and their parents.
“For us, it really brings home how important it is for, not only our teachers and students and faculty and parents, but the entire community. How important it really is for us all to be aware of the risks to our kids,” said Diana Wilson, chief communications officer for the Jefferson County School District.
None of the minors is facing charges as investigators said membership did not prove any of the members bought or sold drugs.
Secret groups on Facebook are common. An administrator can create a group and make the privacy “secret.” The groups attract members by word of mouth. Users have to be recommended to join. And only members can see the group.
In this particular group, some members would post to buy or sell drugs, then the interested parties would continue the conversation through Facebook messenger or text message to arrange the meet-up and exchange.
After the DA’s Office discovered the existence of the secret group, the West Metro Drug Task Force launched an investigation into the drug transactions involving the group’s administrators.
Investigators made one arrest in connection to the secret group. Christopher Bouma, 23, who is believed to have been an administrator of the group, has been charged with three counts of distribution of a controlled substance for allegedly selling drugs to undercover cops.
The group was shut down after the District Attorney’s Office contacted the Facebook public policy department and notified it of the illegal drug activity.
Valuable safety information
The District Attorney’s Office provided advice for parents regarding social media safety:
- Parents should monitor their children’s social networking sites, including Facebook. To see if your child is a member of one or more Facebook groups, either check “Groups” on their device, or use their password and sign-on information to check their Facebook page. Select “Groups” to see the child’s activity in various groups.
- We recommend parents supervise or monitor their child’s use of technology devices, regardless of the age of the child. The best place for parents to start is to enable privacy settings. These settings require the parents’ authorization when your child wants to add apps and programs.
- We recommend a curfew for technology where ALL technology devices are turned in to the parents at a set time each night. The electronics can be charged in the parents’ room, rather than accessible to your child throughout the night.
- Facebook offers a wealth of valuable family safety information on their website.
For iPhone, iPad and other Apple products
- Go to the main “Settings” menu on the device
- Go to “General”
- Go to “Restrictions”
- Choose “Enable Restrictions. You will need to create a 4-digit password here. Choose one your child cannot easily guess
- Select the apps or programs you want to privacy protect
- When your child wants to add an app, they must have your authorization, enabling you to learn more about what the app does. Follow this procedure up to “Restrictions” where you will be able to “Disable Restrictions” so that an app can be added.
For Android products
The steps to enabling parental controls with an Android device is different from that of an Apple product (iPhone, iPad, etc). Below are some helpful links:
There are also many helpful parental control apps available:
Tom's Guide to the best parental control apps
If you still have problems working through parental controls, your service provider (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) have help desk staff that will help you.