#minorsextrafficking | Charges for Bay Area ‘mom influencer’ whose alleged kidnapping story went viral



An aspiring Bay Area “mom influencer” has been charged after police say she falsely claimed her children were the target of kidnapping attempt in December.

Katie Sorensen, who lives in Sonoma, was charged last week with two counts of making false reports, one to a police dispatcher and one to a police officer. Each charge has a maximum penalty of six months in jail. The news was first reported by the Petaluma Argus-Courier.

Sorensen went viral last year when she posted videos on her now-private Instagram @motherhoodessentials. 

“My children were the target of attempted kidnap,” says Sorensen, sitting in her car. “Which is such a weird thing to even vocalize, but it happened and I want to share that story with you.”

She then claims on Dec. 7, she took her two small children to the Michaels craft store in Petaluma. While in the store, she claims a man and woman began to follow her, allegedly “talking about the features of my children.” Sorensen said the couple didn’t buy anything, but followed her out to the parking lot. She accuses them of taking “two steps forward, two steps back” before lunging for her stroller.

Sorensen said she called for help, talked to the police and then decided to share her story on social media to warn other parents.

“I saw these people. They didn’t look necessarily clean-cut,” she said on KTVU. “I felt uncomfortable around them, and instead of making them uncomfortable with my discomfort, I choose to remain in my discomfort.”

The videos had more than 4 million views before they were deleted, and almost overnight she went from 6,000 Instagram followers to over 80,000. 


But in short order, Petaluma police cleared the couple, Sadie and Eddie Martinez, of any wrongdoing. The Petaluma Police Department issued a statement indicating Sorensen’s story had “inconsistencies.” 

“To date, the investigation has produced no evidence or witnesses corroborating the account provided by the reporting party [Sorensen]. Evidence gathered has served to support the account provided by the couple from the store,” Petaluma police said in a statement in December. The police chief said the incident would also be investigated as a possible hate crime. Sorensen has not been charged with a hate crime, however.

Sadie Martinez’s daughter, Esaia Gonzalez, told Buzzfeed News they saw the videos take off among #savethechildren proponents on social media. The hashtag is commonly used by QAnon adherents driven by paranoid and dangerous beliefs about child sex trafficking. QAnon is a broad smorgasbord of conspiracy theories, but the majority of believers think a global organization of satanic pedophiles are enslaving countless children in sex rings. The rallying cry of “save the children” has become a popular way to introduce people to QAnon, as positioning the movement as anti-pedophilia makes it appear more positive and palatable.

Although QAnon adherents say they’re helping vulnerable children, experts say they do much more harm than good. Calls to hotlines for trafficked or at-risk individuals have skyrocketed, leading some organizations to beg people to stop calling in and diverting resources needed for people in actual need.

Conspiracy theorists also overinflate the risk of stranger abductions, thereby minimizing the reality of child exploitation. Children are “virtually always” forced into sex trafficking by someone they know, says Polaris, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking. Stranger danger kidnappings are exceedingly rare, and there is simply no evidence that tens of thousands of small children are disappearing off America’s streets each year. According to the FBI’s crime statistics, 99.7% of the 609,000 people reported missing in 2019 were found.

Although Sorensen said in her video that she wasn’t interested in pressing charges, police said in a follow-up interview she did want the couple prosecuted for attempted kidnapping.

Sorensen is due in court for her May 13 arraignment. 

“It was a good day today, not just for us,” Sadie Martinez told the Argus-Courier. “It gives everyone a little bit of help. Things like this do happen, and we wondered for a while if she would ever face charges.”





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