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When we first began investigating potential predators trying to meet teens online, we had no idea it would lead us to where we are today. Nearly 130 men have surfaced in our stories. 98 of them are currently being prosecuted. In tonight’s broadcast we’ll answer one of the most frequently asked questions: What happened to all of those guys?
You may recall that back in September 2004 when we aired our first “To Catch A Predator” story, law enforcement was not aware of what we were doing ahead of time. As a result fewer men faced criminal charges. In fact, only one man seen in that broadcast is being prosecuted as a result. He’s Ryan Hogan, who at the time was a New York City firefighter. As you’ll see tonight, Hogan was the one who exposed himself and masturbated in front of a web cam while chatting online with a decoy who said she was 14. He also drove by our undercover house, but coincidently, as he did, he saw a police car parked nearby and never came in. Even so, what he did was enough to get him fired from the New York City Fire Department and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. Last year Hogan pleaded guilty to using the Internet to transmit obscene material to a person under 16. He faces up to 16 months in prison and must register as a sex offender. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next month.
That so many men would show up in our first investigation was stunning, but in the second story it was who showed up that really surprised us. I once went an entire year purposefully not using the word “shocking” in my stories for Dateline because I thought the word was over-used. But there is no substitute adjective to describe what happened at our undercover house in Fairfax County, VA, outside Washington, DC. On day one of the investigation, the very first man to walk in the door was a rabbi. David Kaye had a good job working for a Jewish organization that brought Jewish kids from across the country to the nation’s capitol to learn about government. But on this day he stood visibly shaken in our kitchen. He had chatted on line with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy. He had transmitted nude pictures of himself and made a date to meet our decoy. Kaye called us several times saying he did nothing wrong. The day before our story aired in November 2005, he resigned his position. Just this past Friday the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia filed two charges against him: One for attempting to entice a minor to engage in an illegal sexual activity, and the other for travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual activity.
During our investigations in California, Ohio and Florida, law enforcement planned parallel investigations so that after men arrived at our house and I confronted them, the men could be arrested. This was obviously a challenge for us, but one that ultimately paid off. The online watchdog group Perverted Justice had been contacted by police or sheriff’s deputies in all three states. Just like in our earlier investigations, Perverted-Justice contributors posed as decoys, but starting in California they also provided logs of the chats between potential predators and decoys to investigators. That meant that officers could arrest virtually every man who showed up. 51 in California, 18 in Ohio, and 24 in Florida. Of the 98 men now being prosecuted 5 are convicted sex offenders. 6 of the 98 have either pleaded no contest or guilty. The others who have entered pleas, have pleaded not guilty.
Putting this hour of television together has made me look back closely and reflect on all of these investigations going back almost two years now. I try to use this blog to give you insight and some behind the scenes perspective on what I think is a critically important issue, something I’ve spent a considerable number of hours of my time on.
You need to know, however, that there are a lot of people who have invested the same if not more hours to bring you these stories. My producer Lynn Keller has been absolutely indefatigable. Associate producers Donna Johnson and Loren Burlando have put in innumerable hours and completed tasks that are far removed from their job descriptions. Senior producer Allan Maraynes has, as always, provided critical guidance and creativity. Executive producer David Corvo has given us more leadership and support than we could have ever asked for. The Dateline editors— and there are several— have ingenuously assembled images never before seen on television. Del and Frag and the rest of the Perverted Justice contributors define devotion to a cause. Mitchell Wagenberg and his team have over and over again assembled hidden camera systems and pulled off engineering feats that could make the CIA envious. The lawyers and standards folks, who have to review all of it, including these very words, have been patient and smart. Without all of these people and more, these investigations would not have been possible.
Where are they now? (Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent)
In five “To Catch a Predator” stories in five different states, we’ve come across some memorable characters. Tonight we’ll tell you what has happened to the nearly 130 men who surfaced in our continuing investigation. 98 of those are now facing criminal charges going all the way back to September 2004 when we set up our first undercover house in Long Island, New York.
It was during that story you met a New York City firefighter named Ryan Hogan who had a sexually charged online conversation with a decoy posing as a 14-year-old girl. Hogan later exposes himself and masturbates on a Web cam. He has since been terminated from the New York Fire Department and has pleaded guilty to using the Internet to transmit obscene material to a person under 16. He faces up to 16 months in prison and must register as a sex offender. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next month.
At least five other men have also pleaded guilty to various charges related to what they were seen doing in our stories, including Joe Wunderler who showed up at our hidden camera house outside of Washington, D.C. Wunderler, an army intelligence officer, pleaded guilty to federal charges of attempting to entice a minor to have sex. Federal guidelines call for a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison.
That was also the investigation where we met a rabbi named David Kaye. He came to the house after an explicit conversation with a decoy posing as 13-year old-boy. Just last Friday , the U.S. Attorney's Office in Virginia charged Kaye with attempting to entice a minor to engage in an illegal sexual activity and traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
There have been significant developments in the cases of several of the men who showed up at our hidden camera houses. Tonight we’ll go all the way back to the beginning to bring you up to date.
The postings were meant to coincide with what's TV. Scroll below for the latest updates.
Why do the potential predators talk to me? And where are the women? (Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent)
When the FBI conducts sting operations targeting online predators, it refers to the men who get caught as “travelers.” Based on what we found in tonight’s investigation, that’s an apt expression. Of the 24 men who showed up at our undercover house in Ft. Myers, Fla., 14 actually lived more than two hours away.
Take the case of 23-year-old Raul Antonio Brenes. He came all the way from Lake Worth, Fla. to meet someone who told him online that she was a 14-year-old girl home alone. It took him four hours on a bus to get there. He brings condoms and beer. As you’ll see, when I confront him with his online chat he says he’s “guilty of whatever is there.” We even had one man show up who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. Calvin Lee Greer is a communications worker who was in Florida on a business trip. From his hotel room, he chatted about sex online with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl. He comes to our house with hamburgers for him and his date. He blames his appearance here on “sheer stupidity.”
Here in Ft. Myers as in Greenville, Ohio, we hired a 19-year-old actress who could pass for 13 to help us in our investigation. Watch tonight how she communicates with some of the men as they enter our house. It’s interesting to compare their demeanor and what they say to her to what happens when I walk out to confront them. 32-year-old Brian Gosselin is a good example. Once inside the house, he sits comfortably and he talks to our actress who is in another room. He says he brought some wine coolers and then comments on how big the house is. The young woman posing as a teen asks if he brought protection? He says, “yeah.” But, when I walk out Brian suddenly doesn’t have a last name, or at least he’s not willing to share it with me. Brian decides the visit is over and takes off. The Ft. Myers police have other plans.
One question I hear all the time is: Why do some of these men sit and talk to you for so long? I think there are a couple reasons. Some are just in shock and can’t decide what to do. Some have an excuse and they’re sticking to it. Others know they have a problem and may be relieved to be caught and get this off their chest. Whatever the reason, here in Florida we see something more than in any previous investigations: Men who have seen our stories before and in some cases know who I am the moment I confront them. As you’ll see tonight, when I tell Ryan McIntosh who I am, he says: “I know.” When I ask him if he’s seen previous stories, he says yes. Then I ask him what he thought of those stories and he says: “They were very good coverage.” McIntosh told me he came to the house to meet a teenage boy and while he explained he would not have had sex with the boy, he knows what’s going to happen to him next.
For three days there was a parade of potential predators arriving at our undercover house to meet a young teen -- including the man who you’ll see tonight strip naked as he comes in, the man we’ve already shown you who brought his 5-year-old son along, and the guy who covered his face with his shirt and kept on talking… calling me “dawg” and so many more.
One thing you haven’t seen tonight or in any of our other investigations is a woman walk in the door. Why is this? Experts tell us that, while there are female predators who may go after young boys, like the infamous teacher cases we’ve seen, most of them pursue targets they’re familiar with. Women, at least in our experience, tend not to use the Internet for this purpose. In the four years that Perverted-Justice has been going after online predators, only once has it found a woman involved in this activity. The reality is, it tends to be a male-dominated crime.
Next Wednesday, we’ll show you what has happened to the men who surfaced in all of our investigations -- going back to the very beginning.
An update on the potential predators from previous 'Predator' reports airs next Wednesday, 8 p.m. on NBC.
Another naked guy… and in his sexual chat, he mentions a cat (Chris Hansen, Dateline Correspondent)
As you can imagine, when we shoot “To Catch a Predator,” it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to install the hidden cameras and otherwise prepare the undercover house. Perverted Justice contributors sometimes spend weeks in advance of an investigation posing as young teens in chat rooms.
Once we’re all in place we often start at 10 o’clock one morning and work until 4 o’clock the next. But you know the interesting thing is that the time passes quickly. I think that’s because of the kinds of characters who show up to meet a kid who told them they were home alone.
Video: Editor’s Note: This story has been removed Once you see our latest investigation you’ll see what I mean. Take Marvin Lakhan, screen name “Crazytrini85.” While chatting online with a decoy posing as a 14-year-old girl named Cindy, Lakhan has one of the most bizarre and graphic conversations we’ve seen. He says he wants to have sex with the girl in several rooms in her parents’ house and in the hot tub. Then he asks her if she has any pets.
The decoy says she has a cat. You couldn’t make up what happens next. Lakhan asks if the girl will involve the cat in a sex act. She’s says she’ll give it a try if Lakhan will strip off all his clothes when he arrives at the house. It turns out he’s a man of his word.
Lakhan walks right in the back door of our undercover house, peels off his shirt, pants and underwear and moves quickly towards the voice of an actress we hired to play the part of a young teen. The girl asks him to have a seat in the living room, but he keeps coming towards the door leading to a room where both the girl and I are standing. We can see it all on a television monitor. Just as he reaches for the doorknob, I open the door, ask him to please cover himself with a nearby towel and have a seat. He sits and answers my question for about 15 minutes. He admits he was “making a mistake”. He says he “wouldn’t have gone all the way,” but when I remind him he’s naked he says “something along sexual lines” probably would have happened.
When I tell him he’s going to be on Dateline he promises he’ll never do this again. He has little else to say except that he’ll leave the towel in the laundry room after he puts his clothes back on. When he walks outside he’s arrested by Ft. Myers police officers. All this… and remember we had 23 other men visit as well.
More of "To Catch a Predator" in Ft. Myers Florida airs Wednesday, 9 p.m.
Start here, and scroll below for the updates. The postings are meant to coincide with what's on TV.
There are always surprises in 'Predator' investigations (Chris Hansen, Dateline Correspondent)
It is without a doubt the most elaborate undercover house we’re ever had. 13 hidden cameras record every move our visitors make, from the moment they drive down the street, until they come face to face with me and then, later are arrested by Ft. Myers police after leaving the house. It’s a good thing too we had all those cameras and angles, because based on the characters who showed up, you wouldn’t want to miss a second of what happened.
The first man you'll meet tonight comes to our house to be with a 15-year-old girl named Jolanda he thought he had met online. Jolanda was really a decoy from the online watchdog group Perverted Justice. 49-year-old Michael Wilusz makes himself right at home. There are freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies on the counter where the decoy asks Wilusz to wait. He picks one up and starts eating it. I am consistently surprised by how some of these men react when instead of meeting a teen they meet me. Take Wilusz for instance. In his online chat, he talks about how young girls like Jolanda don't come along often and how they'd have to keep their relationship a secret because of their age difference. When I confront him though he makes it sound like he was just there for the cookies, tosses one of them onto the table and says he's leaving for the beach. As you are about to see however, Wilusz won't be getting much sun on this day.
It is not easy for a lot of these men to travel from where they live to our undercover house. Here in Florida we see guys who go to great lengths to meet a teenage girl or boy. David Schumacher dupes his sister into driving him to our house after he has a sexually charged conversation with someone who told him she was a 14-year-old girl. The whole time you are watching me talk to Schumacher, his sister is waiting in the driveway with two kids in the car. It turns out Schumacher apparently doesn't drive himself much any more. He's already been convicted of leading police on a chase while driving a stolen car. He's also been convicted twice of battery, most recently in January. While I am talking to him though, I know none of this. He does mention later that he's familiar with law enforcement. He turns out to be one of the chattiest guys we've ever met.
In fact, as you're about to see, he never stops talking. And wait until you see how he reacts when I tell him I'm with Dateline. It's a television first for us.
This is the fifth state in which we've conducted a computer predator investigation. I started to wonder if at some point what we found would all start to look the same or sound the same. Not even close. In Florida there are a lot of firsts. An eerie scene plays out at about four o'clock on a Saturday morning. 44-year-old Thomas Moffit has driven across the state to meet a girl named Toni who told Moffit she was 15. Moffit isn't rushing into anything. He waits in his car, which he has pulled around to the back of his house. He finally gets out and walks to the back door. His face is intense. He's now talking to an actress we hired to portray the 15-year-old girl who's home alone and waiting for his visit. Moffit seems suspicious. He says he's just being cautious. It's as tense in the driveway as it is behind the scenes in the house. You see, earlier Moffit was chatting online and received a phone call from a Perverted Justice decoy acting as a 15 year old. Now he senses that maybe that person and our actress are two different people, which is actually the case. Moffit wants to see some identification. Our actress has to improvise. She offers to go get her library card, but when she can't come up with one, the man refuses to come in the house. Instead he tries to convince the girl to get in his car and drive to Walgreens to get ice for his Dr. Pepper. When she says no, Moffit starts to leave and is arrested by police.
Tonight as you watch, you'll likely notice that the police arrests or take-downs if you will, seem to be more forceful than in our previous two investigations where police were set up nearby.
I asked Ft. Myers Police Chief Hilton Daniels about this. Daniels told me that the more physical methods were necessary for a couple of reasons. One is that in Florida it is easier than in some other states to legally purchase and carry a concealed weapon. Daniels didn't want his officers taking any chances.
It's interesting that this crossed my mind even before we set up in Ft. Myers. I had worked as a reporter in Tampa many years ago and remembered that buying and possessing a handgun was simpler here. The chief also said he was concerned about some of these men getting away and perhaps entering a nearby house.
As concerned as they were for their own safety and the safety of those nearby, I also saw the police show restraint. When a deaf man showed up for instance, officers knew he would not hear them as they shouted orders. They altered their techniques. And when a man shocked us all by bringing his 5-year-old son along as he came to meet someone who said he was a 14-year-old boy, officers tried not to traumatize the boy. The man was in fact arrested, but his son was swept up by a female officer and taken away so he wouldn't further witness what was happening to his dad. The boy's mother was called at work and she came to the police station and picked him up.
It's been another startling investigation into online predators. Exhausting and fascinating at the same time. Next week, we'll have more from Ft. Myers, Fla. Trust me, you haven't seen it all.
Unforgettable scenes in Ft. Myers, Florida: One potential predator who demands an ID card from our decoy, and the other who brought his young son (Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent)
Ft. Myers, Fla. is the fifth location in our "To Catch A Predator" series. In spite of all of the startling men and situations we've encountered in our past investigations, this was like being in a cyber Twilight Zone.
We were set up in a beautiful brick home on one of the city's finest streets. Decoys from the online watchdog group Perverted-Justice posed as young teens in local chat rooms for several days. The Ft. Myers Police Department set up its operation in a nearby guesthouse. On Friday morning, we already had a long list of potential predators scheduled to visit. But even we were not prepared for some of the men who showed up over the next three days.
There were some very intense scenes: A 44-year old man named Charles Moffit showed up at almost 4 a.m.. By day he's a maintenance engineer at a swanky Boca Raton resort. He's married with 3 children. He's driven more than two hours to meet a girl who told him she was 15. Online he asked the decoy if she "Would you ever fool around with an old guy like me?" Then he says: "How bout after I come in, I strip?"
But later, Moffit is cautious. At first, he doesn't even get out of his car. When he finally walked up to the back door, he talked with the actress we hired to pose as the 15-year-old girl. The actress is not the same Perverted-Justice decoy Moffit had talked to on the phone earlier -- and he picks up on this. He tells our actress to get some proof that she is who she said she was. She offers to get a library card, but when she doesn't provide one, he starts to leave. A 30-minute encounter ends with Moffit being arrested by the Ft. Myers police.
Video: 'To Catch A Predator' in Florida But probably the most stunning sequence of events occurs when 40-year-old Clifford Wallach comes calling on a boy who said online he was 14 and was willing to participate in oral sex. We saw Wallach's car coming down our street through one of our hidden cameras mounted high up in a palm tree. It's a typical SUV, but Wallach is getting something out of the back seat. That something ends up being his 5-year-old son.
There was a collective gasp inside the house. Many of the people who work with me on these stories have been around the world. They've seen it all and done it all. No one was prepared for this. We immediately decide not to traumatize the boy by trying to do a lengthy interview with his father. Perverted-Justice called the nearby team of Ft. Myers police officers to tell them Wallach had brought his child along. They had already seen father and son approaching. When Wallach walked into the house, I told him who I am and what Dateline was doing.
As he and his son leave, a female officer scooped up the boy and took him to a police car. Wallach was arrested. The boy's mother was called at work and she quickly came to get her son at the police station. Some of the folks working in our house were in tears. We may never know exactly what Wallach's plan was— but no one who sees this video will ever forget it.
"To Catch a Predator" in Ft. Myers, Florida airs tonight on Dateline, 9 p.m.