Man convicted of rape after catfishing victims with fake Facebook profile

You can never be too sure about who you’re really talking to online. This was made painfully clear in the case of an Australian man who used a fake Facebook identity to victimize multiple teenage boys. 

Billy Tamawiwy, 23, has been convicted of “sexual intercourse without consent” (rape) after he used an image of a woman he found on Google image search to create an identity named “Tayla Edwards,” which he used to target multiple young men. The plot is supposedly an act of revenge: In a police interview played in court, Tamawiwy claimed his actions were motivated by someone posting naked photos of him on social media.

On September 24, Tamawiwy was found guilty of the rape of one of his targets, a young man he enticed with promises of sex with “Tayla Edwards” and her friends if the young man had sex first with Tamawiwy. That victim agreed to the deal and was filmed having intercourse; the film and other explicit images were then shared with the victim’s family and friends.

Online catfishing is not illegal in Australia, therefore the case hinged on whether the victim’s consent was negated by Tamawiwy’s deception. The defense argued that his promises were akin to an adulterer promising his mistress that he would leave his wife—something like a reward. 

The prosecutor, Trent Hickey, didn’t buy it and neither did the jury. Because “Tayla Edwards” was a fake Facebook profile, there was never any chance that the “reward” would be delivered. 

Mr. Hickey told the court: “This wasn’t a promise. This was a lie.”

H/T ABC | Illustration by Max Fleishman

Marianne Kirby

Marianne Kirby

Marianne Kirby is a writer whose work focuses on women's issues and bodies. Her byline has appeared in the Guardian and xoJane, and she has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and Radio New Zealand.