A 22-year-old Californian man who admitted to sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl he met on Tinder has been given a 16-month jail sentence.

Sean Rickard, of Anaheim, on Wednesday (local time) pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor three years younger than the perpetrator, even though the victim was actually nine years his junior at the time of the incident.

During their initial interactions on the dating app, Rickard said the girl told him she was 19 years old, the Daily Mail reports.

Sean Rickard pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl, and was handed a 16-month sentence. Photos / Santa Ana Police Department, 123RF
Sean Rickard pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl, and was handed a 16-month sentence. Photos / Santa Ana Police Department, 123RF

As part of Rickard's plea agreement, prosecutors dropped three counts of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14 and one count each of distributing pornography to a minor with the intent to engage in sexual conduct and luring a child with the intent to commit a specified crime, reported NBC Bay Area.

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Officers from Santa Ana Police Department responded on February 27 to a charter school where the 12-year-old student was reported to have been sexually assaulted by a man.

The victim told police she had posed as a 19-year-old woman on Tinder, where she first met Rickard last year.

A Tinder spokesperson sent a statement to DailyMail.com, stressing that the dating app is "an adults-only community" for users 18 years and older.

"We utilize a network of industry-leading automated and manual moderation and review tools, systems and processes - and spend millions of dollars annually - to prevent, monitor and remove minors and other inappropriate behaviours from our app," the statement reads.

"The bottom line is this: we are consistently evaluating and refining our processes to prevent underage access, and will always work with law enforcement, where possible, to protect our users as well. We don't want minors on Tinder. Period."

Police have learned of the assault from the victim's schoolmate, who saw her with Rickard (pictured with his sisters) and told her parents. Photos / Facebook
Police have learned of the assault from the victim's schoolmate, who saw her with Rickard (pictured with his sisters) and told her parents. Photos / Facebook

The victim and Rickard had exchanged messages for eight months via social media before she revealed her true age in February, but apparently that did nothing to deter the man.

According to police, the 12-year-old girl skipped school on February 25 and was picked up by Rickard, who then took her to a parking lot in Santa Ana and sexually assaulted her.

Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said at the time that they learned of the assault thanks to one of the victim's schoolmates, who saw the girl with Rickard, snapped a photo of the pair and showed it to her parents, who then contacted the authorities.

After learning that Rickard communicated with the victim through Snapchat, detectives posed as the victim and began talking to him.

Rickard believed he was talking to the 12-year-old girl and sent her video of himself masturbating, according to police.

He also agreed to meet the girl later that evening to have sex again.

Detectives set up a sting operation and waited for Rickard as he parked behind a clothing store in Anaheim. As soon as he got out of his car, the suspect was arrested.

During an interview with police, the 22-year-old admitted to knowing the victim was 12 years old and to picking her up from school for sex.