FARMINGTON — Davis County prosecutors have built 18 cases against teenagers from schools across the area involved in taking nude pictures and trading them over cell phones.

The cases come from schools in West Bountiful, Farmington, Kaysville and elsewhere in the county.

"This is probably the tip of the tip of the iceberg," deputy Davis County Attorney Ronald Dunn told the Deseret Morning News on Thursday.

It began with an investigation in January into a group of teenagers taking pictures of their breasts and genitals at Farmington Junior High and trading them with friends over their cell phones. A parent of one of the kids found the pictures on their child's cell phone and called police.

"They're sharing amongst an inner circle of friends. It's all consensual, they're not sharing them with adults," Farmington Police Lt. Shane Whitaker said at the time.

The investigations spread to other schools across Davis County, as authorities followed a network of "kids and cliques." Dunn said the concern is that the pictures could fall into the wrong hands or wind up on the Internet as child pornography.

"It's out there and it's happening," Dunn said. "It's felonies, potentially federal felonies, and kids are clueless. They think that because the person is across the room and you're sending it across the room that it isn't a big deal. It's not the case."

In one case, Dunn said a 13-year-old West Bountiful girl received an explicit picture through a misdialed number.

While police in several cities have conducted exhaustive investigations, Dunn said they have built cases against 18 teens. Three more were referred to Cache County prosecutors for possible charges because the teens live there. The potential charges could be misdemeanor lewdness. Some could face felony exploitation charges.

"Some boys were using these photos as weapons to coerce girls into doing things they weren't willing to do," Dunn said.

Davis County prosecutors are offering some of the teens a chance to enter into a diversion agreement for counseling or classes to avoid charges. Those who decline could be brought to court, Dunn said.

Prosecutors believe the problem is more widespread than even they know, while police have said most kids engage in this conduct as "kind of a joke." The problem is the photos get forwarded and sometimes wind up on the wrong phone.

"I think parents have been clueless about it," Dunn said. "The minute they decided to put cameras in phones it became inevitable, in my opinion."

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