A promising woman footballer who tricked young girls into sexual acts by dressing as a teenage boy has been jailed for nine years.
Chantelle Johnson, 19, who was on the books of Middlesbrough FC Ladies, created the online persona of 13-year-old Drew and convinced the youngsters, who were aged 12 and 13 that he was besotted with them.
Johnson would eventually turn the online chat to sexual matters and arranged to meet the girls, where she wore boyish clothes, no make-up and pulled a hoody tightly around her head to reveal only her face, a court heard.
Late last year, she kissed and intimately touched one of her three victims, a girl aged 13, while dressed in her guise of Drew, Teesside Crown Court was told. Prosecutor Paul Cleasby said:
"The girl believed she was in a relationship with a male called Drew who told her he was 13 years old. The contact had started via Instagram with the defendant messaging the girl giving her compliments on how she looked.
"Due to this flattery the girl began communicating with the character Drew on a daily basis and within a few days Drew tells her that he wants to be in a relationship with her.
"Having lured the child into the early stages of a relationship the defendant began turning the conversation to matters of a sexual nature.
"The defendant under the guise of Drew told the child he wanted to penetrate her vagina digitally and asked whether the child would want this. The child said she was too young."
However, after persistent grooming, the girl agreed to meet "Drew" and on each occasion Johnson wore a hood to disguise her long hair.
Mr Cleasby said: "She did meet with the person she believed to be Drew on a number of occasions. They would kiss intimately on the lips and on one occasion the defendant put her hands down the girl’s trousers."
Johnson, of Middlesbrough, also convinced another girl to send pictures of herself in her underwear by posing as a second boy called "Nathan".
Mr Cleasby said that she first befriended the girl online with the fake teenage boy persona.
He added: "After a short while Nathan started private messaging the girl and the conversation began to have a sexual undertone with the defendant persuading the girl to to send pictures of herself dressed in underwear. The pictures were sent as the girl believed she was in a relationship with a boy of the same age."
The third victim was 12 at the time when she was contacted online by "Drew" late in 2015. Mr Cleasby said Johnson flattered her and arranged for a date.
He said: "The girl would be excited about the prospect of a date and would spend time doing her make-up and hair and selecting clothes."
However, on these occasions Drew would not turn up and Johnson made herself available to the heartbroken girl as a shoulder to cry on.
The girl would be excited about the prospect of a date and would spend time doing her make-up and hair and selecting clothesProsecutor Paul Cleasby
Mr Cleasby said: "This was a sophisticated grooming process employed by the defendant to get closer to the girl."
Having gained her trust using Drew as bait, Johnson went on to abuse the girl between December 2015 and June 2016.
Johnson backed up her false male personas with a host of other characters, posing online as Drew’s father and other family members.
In one elaborate hoax, an attempt to gain sympathy and trust from two of her victims, she said Drew’s younger sister had died and even wore black clothes when she met them, claiming to have been at her funeral.
Johnson admitted four counts of meeting a child following sexual grooming in the guise of a boy, four counts of assault by penetration, causing child pornography and perverting the course of justice by deleting information from social media accounts and deliberately destroying a SIM card.
Michelle Turner, mitigating, said that Johnson had been through family upheaval from the age of eight when she was "passed from pillar to post".
Ms Turner said: "She accepts the majority of the prosecution case. She is socially isolated, exceptionally immature and is vulnerable in her own right."
Jailing Johnson for nine years Judge Howard Crowson said: "I consider this was deliberate, well planned, targeted abuse of young girls.
"The case reveals a clear ability to manipulate and construct plausible lies which deceived the girls. It is unusual only because you are female, this type of offending is more often carried out my males."