(CNN)A British woman has been sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for pretending to be a 16-year-old boy in order to groom and sexually abuse young girls.
Gemma Watts, 21, pleaded guilty to seven charges of grooming and sexual assault in November 2019 and returned to Winchester Crown Court for sentencing Friday, according to a police statement.
"In this particular case, Watts targeted her young victims on social media platforms and duped them into believing they were entering into a relationship with someone whom they could trust," said Phillipa Kenwright of London's Metropolitan Police force, who was one of the lead detectives on the case.
"She then went on to form physical relationships in which she spun a web of lies and deceit, giving her the opportunity to commit sexual offences," Kenwright added.
Watts used the alias "Jake Watton" to groom young female victims on messaging apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, Yubo and Instagram.
Police said her deception was "bizarre and elaborate," with Watts traveling from her home in Enfield, north London, to different parts of the country to meet her victims.
The investigation began in April 2018, when a medical professional told Hampshire police that a 14-year-old girl reported a sexual assault by her boyfriend, known as Jake Watton.
Police found that Jake Watton was in fact Gemma Watts, and later discovered another two victims, both under the age of 18, who reported being groomed and sexually assaulted by someone using that name.
Watts was arrested in July 2018 following a search of her home. She admitted to grooming the girls and partially admitted to a number of assaults.