LAKEWAY, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The magnitude of the situation was evident by the number of federal and local authorities who gathered Tuesday at the Lakeway Police Department. The intensity was fueled by the image of a man filling video screens in the conference room.
"The allegations on this person are serious, there are a lot of them, so it’s very possible that he was allegedly abusing many other people at different times and different places,” said John Bash, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.
Investigators say Luann Hida is a serial predator accused of sexually abusing about 40 teenage boys since 2014. According to a 52-count indictment, Hida enticed boys as young as 12 into sexual encounters which he allegedly made into pornographic videos.
Possible victims have so far been found in Hays, Travis, Williamson and Bell counties.
"As shocking as the number of victims are that we know about this point, we are concern there are more victims out there,” said John Scata with the FBI.
20 teenagers remain unidentified. The case will be tried in federal court, but Travis County prosecutors are also building a case against Hida.
District Attorney Margaret Moore could not say at this time if Hida is being linked to any unsolved cases, although a review by her staff is being done.
This case started off with a tip to the Hays County Sheriff's Office before it went federal. It’s an example of how something can start small and become something much larger.
"A lot of social media was used in this investigation, which we can’t go into the investigation, but I'd encourage all parents to watch the social media contacts with their children,” said Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler.
Officials say they are not asking parents to launch their own personal investigations. They did offer suggestions how to ask that tough question.
"I think a parent could ask them if there was anything that has happened to them that they feel unsafe about, and then really encourage that child to trust that parent to talk with them,” said Cyndi Cantu with the Center for Child Protection. “If they don’t feel the parent is someone they can talk to then to find a safe person and maybe a therapist, somebody else the parent trusts that the child can talk to.”
Investigators did not go into detail about how Hida may have used vape devices and alcohol to lure the teenagers. They did link him to a sedan and a SUV and released his screen names: TheLOTR and TXLOTR, references to “The Lord of the Rings”.
At least one victim has moved out of state. Officials have not ruled out the possibility there could be more victims from other states who have come in contact with Hida.
Investigators also indicated they are pursuing people that he worked with and sent video to. As of Tuesday afternoon Hida was still in federal custody.
An email to report accusations of abuse to the FBI in the case has been set up: TXLOTRvictims@fbi.gov. Additional information can be found here.