A tourist caught sending a string of filthy texts to underage girls before asking a 13-year-old for sex has avoided jail.

American Joshua Lopez believed he was having the sexually explicit chats with two underage girls on social media sites.

But in reality the 20-year-old – who described himself as a ‘committed Christian’ – was being duped by ‘paedophile hunters’ the Guardians of the North.

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The organisation sets up fake profiles across the internet to snare adults looking for with children.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Lopez was in the UK visiting family when he made with two of the group’s decoy profiles in November last year.

Lopez sent pictures of his genitals to both profiles, as well as graphic, sexual messages.

Prosecutor Emma Dowling told the court: ‘Neither of these girls, in fact, existed. Two separate people working for the group set up two separate profiles.

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‘It appears, by way of coincidence, the defendant has ed both of those profiles, separately, and in about the same time period.

‘They both say they are 13 and they both have conversations with the defendant.’

The texts sent by Lopez

The court heard when Lopez arrived at Concorde bus station in Wearside, Sunderland, to meet one of the girls he was confronted by members of the group who had alerted the police.

Video shows the moment he was ambushed and told the group: ‘I wasn’t gonna do anything. I was just going to say hi and tell her that we couldn’t do anything.’

When he was told ‘you have sent indecent images of yourself to these children’ he simply replied: ‘Okay.’

Lopez, who resides in the US but had been staying with relatives in Sunderland, admitted attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming and attempting to arrange to meet a child following sexual grooming.

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Vince Ward, defending, said Lopez was ‘shocked, alarmed and ashamed’ at his own behaviour.

He said Lopez is a committed Christian whose grandfather is a church minister in London.

‘Once the system is finished with him, he will be going back to America,’ Mr Ward added.

Judge Stephen Earl said the messages sent by Lopez were ‘disgusting’ but added  there is a ‘realistic prospect’ that Lopez will change.

Lopez was sentenced to 14 months in prison, suspended for two years.

He must sign the sex offenders register and abide by a sexual harm prevention order for ten years.

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