California man, 22, gets lenient 16-month prison term after having sex with 12-year-old schoolgirl he met on Tinder

Sean Rickard of Anaheim pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with the minor despite knowing she was just 12 years old

A 22-year-old man from California was sentenced to 16 months in prison after he admitted to having sex with a 12-year-old girl he met via Tinder.

Sean Rickard, of Anaheim, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor three years younger than him, despite the victim actually being nine years junior at the time of the incident, Daily Mail reports.

The girl allegedly told Rickard she was 19 years old when they initially chatted on the dating app, he said. 

Police ambushed Rickard as he parked behind a clothing store in Anaheim, and arrested him as soon as he got out of his car. (Santa Ana Police Department)

According to NBC Bay Area, prosecutors dropped three counts of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14 and one count each of distributing pornography to a minor with the intent to engage in sexual conduct and luring a child with the intent to commit a specified crime - as part of a plea deal.

On February 27, officers from the Santa Ana police responded to a charter school after reports that a 12-year-old student was sexually assaulted by an adult male.

The victim admitted to the police that she had posed as a 19-year-old woman on Tinder before meeting Rickard in person.

Meanwhile, Tinder told Daily Mail on Thursday their dating app was "an adults-only community".

"We utilize a network of industry-leading automated and manual moderation and review tools, systems and processes - and spend millions of dollars annually - to prevent, monitor and remove minors and other inappropriate behavior from our app," they said in a statement. 

"The bottom line is this: we are consistently evaluating and refining our processes to prevent underage access, and will always work with law enforcement, where possible, to protect our users as well," they said, adding, "We don’t want minors on Tinder. Period." 

Nonetheless, the victim revealed her true age to Rickard in February - after exchanging messages for eight months via social media. However, that did not deter the man.

On February 25, Rickard picked up the 12-year-old girl and took her to a parking lot in Santa Ana, before sexually assaulting her.

At the time, authorities learned of the assault from one of the victim's schoolmates, Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. She saw her with Rickard, photographed the pair, and showed it to her parents. 

Detectives later understood Rickard communicated with the victim via Snapchat, and so they posed as the girl and began talking to him.  

According to police, the attacker thought he was talking to the girl and sent a video of himself masturbating.

Furthermore, he agreed to meet her later that evening to engage in sexual intercourse once again.

The police ambushed Rickard as he parked behind a clothing store in Anaheim, and arrested him as soon as he got off his car.

During the interrogation that followed, the 22-year-old admitted to picking the victim up from school for sex despite knowing she was 12 years old.

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