in ,

Sex offender used popular YouVersion Bible app to target underage girls

A Florida man has been accused of using the popular YouVersion Bible app to secretly message underage girls at a Hillsborough County church youth group.

Douglas Earl Kersey, a registered sex offender, had been using the YouVersion Bible app to communicate with underage girls in a youth group. Kersey’s activity was reported by a churchgoer who noticed the odd online behavior.

The churchgoer reported Kersey after discovering he had friend requested several teenage girls in the youth group, searching his name, and realizing he was a registered sex offender. She told investigators his friends list on the app were all minors and “that was concerning to her.”

“It was very concerning,” said Detective Theresa Grooms, who worked the case for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. “You have young ladies that are meeting in a youth group to study the Bible, study the church activities and you have a registered sex offender who has projected himself into that group.”

Kersey, who has previously been imprisoned for transmission of material harmful to minors, did not disclose to HCSO any email addresses, websites, and social media profiles he was using, which he is legally required to do.

The HCSO said it will not name the specific church involved.

“Be aware. Check [kid’s] social media, check their phones, check their email addresses, check their friends,” Grooms said. “Then you have to double and quadruple check.”