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  1. #78
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    August 20, 2009 -- Legislation introduced by state Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) to make it easier for police departments to catch sexual predators targeting children was signed into law recently. House Bill 1348 (now Public Act 96-0547) allows police departments to secure recorded phone conversations of child sexual predators easier and faster than they can today. Senger worked with Rich Wistocki with the Naperville Police Department Computer Crimes Unit to craft this legislation. Wistocki, who works on the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, deals with hundreds of child exploitation cases and said Illinois is one of 12 states that ties the hands of law enforcement on these cases due to Illinois' two-party consent statute. According to Wistocki, sexual predators often seek children out through social networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook where they can hide or fake their identity. Then, the predator seeks to call the child on a cell phone in order to arrange a meeting. "This new law is a huge victory for Internet investigators and advocacy centers who are involved in conducting child exploitation cases throughout the state," Wistocki said in a press release. Governor Pat Quinn also signed a series of legislation co-sponsored by Senger to strengthen laws against sex offenders, including:

    House Bill 1314 (P.A. 96-0262) which makes it a Class 4 felony for a registered sex offender to access social networking Web sites during the period they are required to be registered as an Illinois sex offender.

    House Bill 327 (P.A. 96-0236) broadens the number of sex offenders who can be ordered to wear GPS tracking as a condition of their parole.

    House Bill 550 (P.A. 96-0362) provides that as a condition of mandatory supervised release, probation or supervision, a sex offender refrains from using computer scrub software that can erase evidence of a sex offender accessing a sexually explicit Web site.

  2. #79
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    August 21, 2009 -- Frank D. DeLeon insists he is a changed man. But the 25-year-old Aurora man's criminal past came back to haunt him Friday when he faced sentencing for having a consensual sexual relationship with an underage girl. DeLeon was sentenced to serve seven years in prison and ordered afterward to register as a lifetime convicted sex offender. He is eligible for parole after serving half the prison term. DeLeon pleaded guilty June 23 to aggravated criminal sexual abuse for having a romantic relationship with a 14-year-old Aurora girl for several months in 2005 when he was 21. The two met on MySpace, the Internet social networking site. The girl's page said she was 18. She told DeLeon her real age after they met, but he continued their romance.

    "He stole her innocence," prosecutor Brian Perkins said. "There's a reason the laws of this state prohibit that kind of a relationship. A 14-year-old girl may think she's in love, and on the surface she's consenting, but she simply can't at that age completely understand what she is doing and what type of manipulation and control the defendant is exhibiting over her." DeLeon also provided the girl with alcohol. The relationship ended after her parents became involved. The parents obtained a protective order, which DeLeon violated, and eventually moved their daughter out of the area.

    Perkins described DeLeon as so controlling, he even burned an ex-girlfriend's apartment in Skokie when he was a juvenile after igniting a letter between her and her new boyfriend. No one was injured in the fire, which was contained to one apartment. Besides the arson, DeLeon also had a prior felony as an adult for breaking into cars. He was arrested in November 2006 for the inappropriate relationship. DeLeon faced three to 14 years in prison but, in exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek more than 10.

    The defense attorney, Scott Brower, said there was never any physical force and the girl, despite her age, was a willing participant. In fact, it was she who showed up on DeLeon's doorstep after her dad obtained the protective order barring further contact. Neither the girl nor her parents participated in the sentencing hearing. "He knows what he did was wrong," Brower said. "He knows he should have walked away. He didn't stop because he cared about her. He's done things in his past that he's not proud of, but he is a changed man today."

    DuPage Circuit Judge Peter J. Dockery noted DeLeon's remorse, but the judge said he could not ignore the defendant's criminal history and serious nature of the charges in declining to hand down the minimum sentence. A tearful DeLeon apologized and spoke of his remorse. His mother, who is a single parent, and his brother sat behind him in an otherwise empty courtroom gallery. They and a handful of other supporters wrote letters to the judge urging leniency.

  3. #80
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    FORT LUPTON, August 22, 2009 — When she gets onto a chat page on her computer, Detective Crystal Schwartz doesn't always know the men who begin communicating with her. But they believe she's a 14-year-old girl, and usually within a minute of logging on, Schwartz receives a sexual proposition. She's actually 27 years old, with a master's degree in forensic psychology, but sometimes even she can't figure out why they do it.

    Schwartz has now arrested seven men on charges of Internet sexual exploitation and luring of a child. It was more than a year ago when what was probably her biggest surprise came. In July, a man named Justin Tolman sent her a photo of himself after they'd been “talking” for two months. It showed Tolman in his Colorado State Patrol uniform, standing next to his patrol car. Two days later, Fort Lupton police — accompanied by several Colorado State Patrol troopers and Colorado Springs police officers — arrested Tolman at his home. Throughout the two months she talked with Tolman, he propositioned her numerous times, asking her about sex acts, about undressing him, about attending nude parties. And all the time, Tolman thought she was a 14-year-old girl.

    And, despite the publicity she's received by catching the suspects, the online propositions keep coming, the men continue to believe she's a naíve 14-year-old girl, and they continue to come after her. When they ask for a photo of the imaginary 14-year-old, Schwartz sends a photo of a young-looking Fort Lupton police officer. In some cases, the men have driven to Fort Lupton to meet with the “girl,” only to be arrested by Schwartz and other officers. Some cases take more than a year to develop. One took two hours. A man in Idaho Springs met Schwartz's imaginary 14-year-old girl online, and he was on his way to Fort Lupton to meet her within two hours. When he was arrested in Fort Lupton, he was driving a pickup with a bed in the back and a bag of marijuana for the “girl.”

    Because of her training and experience, Schwartz knows she has to be careful when talking in the chat room with the suspects. “I can't initiate the sexual conversation,” she said, “because of entrapment problems. But I just play naive, and they keep asking questions.” Even the meetings have to be set up by the men. If she was to lure a man into a trap, Schwartz knows she'd probably lose the case in court. So far, losing hasn't happened. Every case that's come to court so far has been pled out with a guilty plea from the men. She's only testified in one preliminary hearing.

    Even with the arrests, the men seem to continue to be fooled by the 14-year-old persona. “It's a sickness,” said Fort Lupton Police Chief Ron Grannis. “I don't think they can stop themselves.” Grannis is right, according to the professionals who treat people involved in the Internet sexual crimes. Dr. Rick May is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, and with his partner operates Treatment and Evaluation Services in Aurora. It's where people who are convicted of Internet sex crimes are sent for rehabilitation. But they can't be cured. “They can be managed with treatment,” May said. “They need to recognize that they have a problem, and they will work on it.” And even though there are dozens of police agencies across the state that have officers posing as young girls to catch the predators, they still log on. “Anyone with a room-temperature IQ is aware they could be talking to a cop online,” May said. “But this shows how driven they are, and how they have denial that anything bad could happen to them.”

    For Schwartz, Grannis and other officers working the cases in the chat rooms, they know it needs to be done, even if they can only work it an hour or two a day. “It's very satisfying to get these guys,” Schwartz said. “To know they might not contact another girl because we caught them. I wish they could get more jail time, though.” Schwartz will continue to work the Internet as much as she can with her other detective duties. She has attended and taught Internet crime classes, and she learned how the predators “groom” a victim to get her to say the things they want or meet them somewhere. “It's really good to get them after going through that,” Schwartz said. She's married — her husband works for the Weld County Sheriff's Office — and she said he understands what she goes through to apprehend someone. And, because she knows how important it is, she wants to continue trapping the predators for as long as she can.

    Chief: Parents need to be aware

    Fort Lupton Police Chief Ronald Grannis said that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows that one in seven children ages 10-17 received sexual exploitation over the Internet. To protect against this, Grannis said parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online.

    Here are a few more tips:

    » Do not let children use the computer alone in their room. Instead, let children use the Internet in the kitchen, living room or other room with a parent.

    » If you encounter an online predator, call (800) 843-5678 or go to Cybertipline.

    » For more information, go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

    The suspects

    The Fort Lupton Police Department has been conducting its Internet luring operation for about two years, in which Detective Crystal Schwartz poses as a 14-year-old girl on the Internet to nab sexual predators. To date, the department has arrested seven suspects on the Internet luring charges:

    » Stanley Gantt, 52, of Northglenn was arrested in July 2008. He worked as a Transportation and Security Administration officer at Denver International Airport. After pleading guilty, he received a sentence of 90 days in jail and 10 years probation, and he must register in the sexual offender program.

    » Justin Tolman, 22, of Colorado Springs, had sexually explicit conversations and sent pornographic photos to the detective in late July. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years probation, and he must register as a sex offender.

    » Eric Milner, 27, of Montana, was arrested September 16. He was visiting his parents in Idaho Springs, and after a two-hour online conversation with the detective, he drove to Fort Lupton to meet her. He had a bed made in the back of his pickup. He was sentenced to two years probation, 60 days in jail, $5,000 in fines and court costs, and he must register as a sexual offender.

    » Philip Bolden, 22, of Carlsbad, New Mexico, was arrested in December in Brighton, where he was temporarily staying while working in town. He was sentenced to four year's probation, $966 in fines and court costs, and he must register as a sex offender.

    » Kevin Taft, 40, of Colorado Springs and a Fort Carson soldier, was arrested after returning home from a 15-month tour in Iraq. He is accused of conversing with the detective and performing sex acts via Web cams while he was stationed in Iraq. He is facing similar charges in Douglas County, and he will face charges in Weld County when that case is done.

    » John Simeone, 26, from Dacono, was arrested last month after he drove to Fort Lupton to meet Schwartz's imaginary 14-year-old. He was arrested on suspicion of Internet luring of a child, Internet sexual exploitation and solicitation for prostitution. He remains in Weld County Jail on a $30,000 bond.

    » James F. Clark, 53, of Colorado Springs was arrested August 13 and charged with Internet luring of a child and sexual exploitation of a child, both felony charges. He was a sergeant and guard at the Limon Correctional Facility.

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    August 22, 2009 -- An undercover police officer posing as an 11-year-old school girl trapped a computer owner from Northamptonshire performing sex acts upon himself while using a webcam. Robert Horton, aged 53, has now been forced to sign the sex offenders' register and is banned from accessing the internet or any online social networking sites. Horton, of Bedford Road, Denton, was arrested last year after an officer with Metropolitan Police in London posed as an underage girl after making contact with him through a social website. He pleaded guilty at Northampton Crown Court to five offences of attempting to engage in sexual activity in the presence of a child in order to obtain sexual gratification. The court heard how on separate occasions in November, including twice on November 27, he had broadcast himself and his actions, using a webcam, to the officer who was posing as a child. Pearl Willis, prosecuting, said: "He made use of a webcam but he was unable to see who he was communicating with."

    Horton only spoke to confirm his name and guilty pleas to the five charges during a brief hearing before Judge Michael Fowler. He said: "This clearly crosses the custody threshold and the defendant must be aware of that." The judge adjourned sentencing until next month for probation reports to be prepared and released Horton conditional bail, telling him he must sign the sex offenders' register before leaving court. As part of his bail conditions, her is banned from using the internet or accessing social networking sites or having any unsupervised contact with anyone aged under 16 years. Judge Fowler added: "These offences do cross the custody threshold and you must not consider that in granting you bail that I am giving you any indication to the contrary."

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    August 22, 2009 -- A Pace man, first arrested in June, now faces additional charges alleging he intimidated a 15-year-old girl to send him nude photos of herself and have sex with him. James Ryan Knowlton, 22, of the 4600 block of Cardinal Street, was arrested Thursday afternoon. Knowlton was charged with 10 counts of promoting child pornography by forcing a minor by threat to take pornographic photographs; 10 counts of possession of child pornography; two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a person under age 16; one count of extortion; and two counts of using a computer to seduce a child, a Pensacola Police Department news release said. Knowlton also was charged with one count of soliciting nude photographs and sex from a 15-year-old in connection with a second investigation. Additional charges involving other victims are possible as the investigation continues, said Pensacola police Officer Chris Wilkinson.

    Knowlton was first arrested June 16 and charged with one count of soliciting pornographic photographs from a 13-year-old girl. Knowlton met his victims in 2008 and 2009 while employed as a counselor at the Bayview Community Center's summer camp, Wilkinson said. Knowlton convinced one of the three victims to send him nude photographs over the Internet and have sex with him. The other two victims refused to send Knowlton photographs. The investigation began after one of the victims told her mother about Knowlton's solicitations, and the mother called police, Wilkinson said.

    Knowlton may have used the following screen names: david_savage12@yahoo.com, pacegoalie44@yahoo.com, hilary1914@yahoo.com, irockinmybluesox@yahoo.com, Jason_jack32@yahoo.com, packerpete12@yahoo.com, wildcatgirl08@yahoo.com, jrk9225@aol.com and jrk9225@aim.com. Anyone who interacted with Knowlton under those or other screen names is asked to contact Wilkinson at 436-5406.

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    TIPP CITY, Ohio, August 22, 2009 -- For the second night in a row a man drives to Tipp City to rendezvous with a 15-year-old girl he met on the Internet for sex. The "girl" was a Tipp City Police officer. The man, Alonzie Wright Jr., 41, Dayton, was booked into the Miami County Jail in Troy around 11 o'clock Friday night. Thursday night a Beavercreek man was arrested in Tipp City on the same charge of importuning. He was freed from jail Friday morning after a judge released him on his own own recognizance at his court arraignment.

  7. #84
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    August 23, 2009 -- Minutes after a young girl logged on to an Internet chat room last week, the smiling face and blond hair on her profile photo caught someone's eye. Fellow chatters flocked to her and asked her age, gender and location. She told them she was a 12-year-old from Cleveland. The chatters kept coming but eventually moved on. They didn't know the 12-year-old was a police officer posing as a young girl. Cops from across Cuyahoga County sit inside a discreet office tucked in a business district. People cannot see inside the windows. It's that way for a reason. Police don't want the public to know where they monitor the darkest human behaviors. Cops pose as youngsters on the Internet and wait for adults to try to lure children to meet them or to solicit them for sex. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason formed a local task force in 2000 to target Internet predators. He expanded it statewide in 2003, and it became the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Every county in Ohio is represented. The unit recently received about $1.7 million in federal grants to hire more investigators and keep operating. Mason allowed a reporter and photographer inside the facility last week for the first time to see how investigators target child predators.

    "We don't sit back and wait for these predators to strike," he said. "We proactively root them out. Sexual predators have changed their tactics with the advent of the Internet. They are no longer just targeting children at the malls and playgrounds but also preying upon them in their homes." Child pornography is a big business across the globe, with people spending tens of millions of dollars on it every year. Statewide, the task force has arrested nearly 2,000 people since 2003. Cases prosecuted in Cuyahoga County jumped from 12 in 2000 to 127 last year. The task force goes after people who buy, sell and trade child pornography, as well as people who try to arrange meetings with children. It also investigates tips from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The center collects information from task forces across the country and logs and identifies children being victimized in movies and pictures. Sometimes those children are tracked down and interviewed, and their statements about the impact of the sexual assaults on their lives are read before convicted pedophiles are sentenced.

    The Cuyahoga County task force has six permanent employees. Scores of other officers rotate from departments around the county and spend time there each week. They surf the Web seven days a week. The officers don't get bored; chatters chat around the clock. The office has eight computers for trolling the Web and is about half the size of a basketball court. Mug shots of convicted predators line the walls. Another large room is stuffed with about 200 seized computers. Within seconds of entering the chat rooms while posing as children, the officers are flooded with requests from people identifying themselves as adults. The questions typically start out harmless, but many eventually turn sexual. Officers never approach other chatters first and make clear to chatters that the users they are posing as are children.

    Rick McGinnis, an investigator for Cuyahoga County who works with the task force, said officers have to immerse themselves in the culture of children to not blow their cover. Predators pay close attention to the words officers use and even how fast they type, he added. "You have to talk like a girl," he said. "You need to know about Hannah Montana. You have to get at their level. " The investigations begin once chatters solicit sex or send pornographic images. Computers log every chat, and detectives subpoena the chatter's information, such as billing address, from Internet providers. They also use file-sharing programs to track how child porn, stored as computer files, is traded and shared on the Internet. The process can take three weeks before detectives obtain search warrants to seize computers. The Internet allows people to disseminate child pornography with anonymity, McGinnis said. Perpetrators cannot peddle it on street corners, and child predators are not usually career criminals, he added. He compared child predators to drug addicts seeking dope to get high. "You never know who is behind the computer screen," McGinnis said. "They have their blinders on and are fixated on a target."

    A longtime Cleveland detective, who did not want to be identified, does the forensic searches on seized computers. All movies have to be watched because many people embed child pornography inside normal movies, he said. The perpetrators, he said, never delete material from their computers. "A collector keeps everything," the 22-year officer said. "Unfortunately, I have to look at all those movies. It's something that has to be done." The hardest part of his job is watching children being victimized, he said. He described the images as horrific. "You see the fear in their eyes," he said about the kids. "I turn the sound down on my computer. In some movies they seem like drones. Some don't show emotion." The officer has been on the task force for four years and has been investigating crimes against children even longer. He declined to be identified so his friends and family don't know what he does at work. He is a father and said the job takes an emotional toll. His work makes him more suspicious of people he encounters. "It makes me mistrust many people," he said. "Anyone could be a suspect. A lot of times it can be your next-door neighbor."

    The task force sometimes is asked to work with police in other parts of the country investigating similar crimes. That happened last week, when police in Pennsylvania asked them to help search a home in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. Investigators were shocked by what they discovered. "It makes me mistrust many people," he said. "Anyone could be a suspect. A lot of times it can be your next-door neighbor."

    The task force sometimes is asked to work with police in other parts of the country investigating similar crimes. That happened last week, when police in Pennsylvania asked them to help search a home in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. Investigators were shocked by what they discovered. Arnold Lawhun traveled to Philadelphia for sex, Pennsylvania police said. The steelworker met what he believed to be a mother in an online chat and headed east to have sex with her and her three daughters, ages 7, 11 and 14, police said. But police were waiting for the 51-year-old convicted sex offender when he arrived. They arrested him and he is in jail, awaiting trial. Task force officers searched Lawhun's house after he was arrested. Cops carted out boxes of movies, sex toys, a computer and a hungry dog. They used a SWAT van to cart away a six-foot bondage stand used to chain people up during sex. Officers had never seen such a contraption. "It was one of the worst homes ever," McGinnis said. Frankie Goldberg, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor who oversees the task force and prosecutes the cases, said children are easily lured by skilled predators. She stressed that children are repeatedly victimized when the same images are opened and viewed by different users on the Internet. She warned that child predators come from all walks of life. "There is a huge difference between perception and reality," Goldberg said. "This gets to the core of your soul. If I was a fiction writer, I couldn't make this stuff up."

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