Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Amanda Todd YouTube video.
Amanda Todd YouTube video.

On the trail of Amanda Todd’s alleged tormentor Add to ...

While his physical profile was going unnoticed around Oisterwijk, Mr. Coban’s digital incarnation was attracting attention with Facebook’s security unit in Menlo Park, Calif. The security unit maintains algorithms designed to detect and delete fake accounts and watch for suspicious activity. In a 2012 Forbes profile, the head of Facebook security, Joe Sullivan, said that the algorithm red flags anyone who sends more than 80 per cent of their friend requests to females, or users who constantly change their birth date.

According to Mr. van Dijk’s interpretation of the evidence, Facebook noticed that a single IP address – the unique locator number for each device connected to a computer network – was setting up dozens of Facebook accounts and accumulating friends and photos at a rapid pace.

“Facebook is saying a lot of accounts were made – 20 or more – and from those accounts people were getting connected very quickly, and then alarm bells ring in the offices of Facebook,” Mr. van Dijk says. “They are the ones who put together all the names and the aliases and they said the person should be on this specific IP address in Tilburg.”

Facebook investigated before preparing a security report for U.S. authorities, who passed it along to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre attached to the U.K. National Crime Agency. By May, 2013, the report was in the hands of Dutch police, who launched an investigation four months later. The Dutch focused particularly on one IP address in the report – – which they traced to the Tilburg area, according to Mr. van Dijk. That information led Dutch authorities to the cabin, where they arrested Mr. Coban in January. He now sits in prison, Penitentiaire Inrichting Nieuwegein, just outside Utrecht, waiting for his next court date, June 26.

The connection to the Todd case became more evident to police after they seized a computer and router from Mr. Coban’s cabin.

“They are alleging [Mr. Coban] is Tyler Boo,” says Mr. van Dijk, referring to one of the aliases known to harass Amanda.

Investigators have also focused on seven MAC addresses – the unique serial number for network devices, similar to a VIN on a motor vehicle.

Amanda wasn’t the only alleged victim. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service alleges there were more extortion victims in the U.K., U.S. and Canada, where Mr. Coban has been charged with luring a child under 18 via computer, extortion, harassment, as well as importing, distributing and possessing child pornography.

The alleged scheme also involved adult men living outside the Netherlands. The prosecution alleges Mr. Coban persuaded men to perform sexual acts via webcam on the belief they were communicating with an underage boy. The men were then blackmailed with threats that the images would be passed on to the police.

So far, the binders on Mr. van Dijk’s desk carry little mention of the RCMP, but he expects that to change when a looming extradition request arrives. “Right now I must only concentrate on the case before me,” Mr. van Dijk says. “I can’t focus on extradition.”

He does, however, question how the heavy news coverage in Canada could prejudice any possible court proceedings.

While he wouldn’t offer many clues as to how he plans to defend Mr. Coban, he did air reservations about the heavy involvement of Facebook with the investigation. “Who is to say that Facebook did this investigation correctly? We will have to go over all their work.”

Some of the police allegations still don’t make sense to Mr. van Dijk. Of the seven MAC addresses that appear in the police documents, he says only one was actually found on a device in Mr. Coban’s cabin.

What Mr. Coban has to say about all this remains a mystery. A Globe and Mail request to visit him at Nieuwegein prison was turned down. Mr. van Dijk has received specific instructions to keep his biographical details out of the news. How long he’ll remain in prison is anybody’s guess.

“I expect this to take a long time,” Mr. van Dijk says. “It could take a year, two years. It’s not a small case.”

Report Typo/Error
Single page

Follow on Twitter: @Nut_Graf

Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular