A Sherwood Park man charged with sexually assaulting a minor says the teenage girl lured him off a dating website, claiming she was 20.

Michael Edward Terrance Hoffart, a 27-year-old Sherwood Park man, claims the girl manipulated him into believing she was older.

“It's not easy for me to talk about and I'm disgusted with myself for falling for her lies saying she was 20,” Hoffart told Metro yesterday.

Patrolling RCMP officers caught the pair in a car early Saturday in a parking lot in the town of Gibbons.

Investigations revealed the girl was 15 years old. Criminal Code legislation passed in the spring states the new age of consent for sexual activity is 16.

Hoffart is charged with two counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference, and two counts of invitation to sexual touching.

The girl, who lives in the Gibbons area, was co-operative with police, insisting she lied about her age.

“She portrays herself as being older online,” said RCMP Sgt. Chris Narbonne.

“That's why there wasn't an Internet luring charge — he would have to have thought she was a minor for that to happen.”

Though Hoffart claims he was duped, experts say the onus for confirming the identity of people met online falls on the older adult, if any doubt exists.

“It’s 100 per cent his responsibility,” said Dorthe Flauer, Strathcona Sexual Assault Centre spokeswoman, adding while engaging in sexual activity with someone under the age of 20, “some alarm bells should have gone off,” for the accused.

The girl and her family are currently working with social services.

Hoffart makes his first court appearance in Morinville Thursday. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

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