Missing Boy Only Existed On Facebook, It Turns Out, So French Cops Kinda Got... Catfished

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A French child reported missing on April 11 will never be found, authorities say — because he never existed at all. Neither Chayson Basinio nor his parents ever existed anywhere but on Facebook, The Guardian reports. Cops were catfished, basically. Now, whoever started the hoax is the subject of police scrutiny.

The authorities looked for the supposedly 2-year-old Chayson everywhere, even dredging a lake to look for his body. They found a Facebook page for his 20-year-old father, Rayane Basinio, but no evidence of a mother. Both parents turned out to be fake, too.

Police were tipped off to the missing boy by his supposed great aunt, who said she believed Chayson was kidnapped. She mentioned that she last saw Chayson near a supermarket, and said she didn't know where his parents were. Not exactly surprising, given that they didn't exist.

French prosecutors are now pursuing the people who started the accounts and led authorities on the wild goose chase. Eric Mazaud, a prosecutor in the case, said authorities would pursue charges for the catfish:

The woman who was never Chayson's great aunt is now in police custody, and her underage teenage daughter and cousin are accused of setting up the fake accounts. She faces up to six months and prison and a fine of about $10,000 if she's convicted of inventing a crime.

Catfishing is the practice of inventing somebody on social media. It's often used with the intent of making a real person fall in love with the character, à la the fake Lennay Kekua and Manti Te'o, the former Notre Dame linebacker. It's even been the subject of an MTV reality series. But catfishing a crime, especially one involving a child, is a lot more sinister. Mazaud, the French prosecutor, said authorities have not figured out why someone would do it.