Dateline is in the town of Petaluma, Calif. where two high-profile predator cases made national headlines. What would our hidden cameras find there? Again, we want to warn you that some of what you’re about to see is explicit. This report aired Friday, Sept. 29, and repeats Nov. 11, Saturday.
Petaluma, Calif. — A girl appears to be home alone and looking for company. She keeps waving men into the garage... and they keep following her all the way to the backyard where she offers them a drink.
Anyone watching this scene repeat itself over and over might be wondering what’s going on.
The girl is an 18-year-old actress hired by Dateline. She’s inviting suspected sex predators to sit at a bar in a backyard that is wired with hidden cameras.
Decoy: Where do you work?
Gopi: I work in Apple.
Decoy: Oh, so you sell fruit?
Decoy: You sell fruit?
Gopi: I’m a software engineer.
Decoy: Oh, software, oh, like the computer. Oh. (Laughter)
Gopi: Yep. Yep.
She chats with the men making them feel more at ease and then I come out.
Chris Hansen, Dateline Correspondent (walks out): So you had quite the commute today, huh? Why don’t you have a seat over by the bar there. How’s it going? Please sit down. Did you enjoy your drink?
It’s all part of Dateline’s latest investigation into online sex predators. As in the past, men from all walks of life show up. A respected doctor and a carpenter who gave us the most revealing confession we’ve ever heard.
Hansen: Is there a part of you that really wishes there was this-- 13 year old girl here?
Jeff Couture: If there were really a 13 year old girl who looked like your friend there, then-- (laughs) then I don’t know. (laughs)
We’ve hired the online watchdog group Perverted-Justice as consultants. Its volunteers are experts at pretending to be kids online. For this operation, the volunteers go into local California chat rooms posing as twelve and thirteen year olds and wait to be contacted by an adult. If a chat turns sexual, the decoys will agree to meet in person and give the suspected predator the address to this undercover house.
It’s in Petaluma, California—an hour north of San Francisco, the town where John Mark Karr, the former suspect in the John Benet Ramsey murder was charged with five counts of possession of child pornography. And the hometown of Polly Klaas a 12-year-old abducted and murdered by a sex predator.
Sergeant Matthew Stapleton, Petaluma Police Department: This is a beautiful community with wonderful people in it. And there isn’t anything about it that caused that event to happen here. The Polly Klaas tragedy is capable of happening in anywhere, USA.
Sergeant Matthew Stapleton of the Petaluma Police Department says law enforcement here is acutely aware of the dangers posed by sex predators. That’s one of the reasons the department wanted to set up a sting.
Sgt. Stapleton: We wanted to make sure that people around us got the message crystal clear that we have resources dedicated to this. And, we will continue to dedicate resources to this as much as we can.
And that’s why the Petaluma police reached out to Perverted-Justice. Sergeant Stapleton and his men worked out a plan with the online watchdog group. The police will be staked out in the house next door and Perverted-Justice will turn over chat logs and phone records of the suspects expected to show up. Once a man leaves, the police will make an arrest.
Usually we’re set up inside the house—often in the kitchen. This time we’re in the backyard. To give you an idea of how this works, watch a man, 41 year-old Norberto Avalos. He’s here to meet a girl who told him she was thirteen.
Decoy: Yeah? Well, come on back. I made some frozen lemonade.
Norberto Avalos: Lemonade.
Decoy: Yeah. So—sit down.
As he heads into our backyard, we are unaware that this man has a criminal history for armed robbery.
Avalos: This house is nice.
Deocy: Yeah. So sit down right there and pour me a drink. I’m gonna get into my swimsuit. So—maybe we can hang out in the hot tub.
Avalos: Okay, thanks.
Online, he calls himself “sebastian_for_u.” He tells the decoy he can make a girl walk on clouds if he makes love to her. Then he asks about meeting her in person. “We will just talk right? Or do I have to take some condoms?”
The decoy says “Well, I dont wanna get pregnant.” He says “Even if we don’t use one I won’t get you pregnant—I know how to do it- take it out on time.” The decoy tells him to bring them anyway. Online he also offers to bring her a webcam.
Decoy: Did you get me some presents? I’ll be out in just a minute. I can check ‘em out.
Hansen (walks out): So what’d you bring?
Avalos: Hey, how ya doin’?
Hansen: Good, how are you?
Hansen: What all did you bring here?
Avalos: Oh, I brought a Web cam.
Hansen: Why did you get a web cam?
Avalos: Oh, for your daughter.
Hansen: And why would you want to buy my daughter a Web cam?
Avalos: Just I mean to talk.
Hansen: Well, why would you have a web cam if you weren’t gonna—
Avalos: Well, just to see her face and so I can see her face.
Hansen: But you had no other plans about making her do anything sexual?
Avalos: Oh, no, not—I’m not like that.
Hansen: Now did you bring condoms with you?
Hansen: There’s none in your car?
Avalos: Well, there is—I always carry condoms in my car.
Hansen: You always carry condoms in your car.
Avalos: Yes, yes. But I wouldn’t do that to a 13-year-old, believe me.
Hansen: The problem is that your conversation makes it sound like you would do that with a 13-year-old.
Avalos: No, I wouldn’t.
Hansen: (reading from chat) “Have you ever had an orgasm. Well, if you were my girl, I will give you the best one in your life.”
Avalos: Yeah, but I wouldn’t do that to her. Until she gets 18.
Hansen: So, you’re gonna hang out—you’re gonna hang out here for five years until she turns 18?
Avalos: Maybe, yes.
The decoy clearly identified herself as a 13-year-old.
Hansen: There’s talk about condoms. There’s talk about sex. There’s talk about—giving her an orgasm? I mean what conclusion am I supposed to draw from that?
Avalos: I just made a mistake.
This is the part where he finds out he’s going to be on national television.
Hansen: I am Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC. And we’re doing a story on adults who try to meet teenagers on-line. Now, if there’s anything else you wanna say—
Hansen: I’d like to hear it. If not, you’re obviously free to walk out the door you came in.
Avalos: Well, I’m sorry. And, you know, I wouldn’t do that. Seduce a kid—I mean a girl.
Hansen: Well, you’re seducing her online.
Avalos: I wouldn’t do that on, you know, in person, you know. I regret whatever I said on, you know, online.
Hansen: Well, you’re free to go.
Avalos: Thank you.
Hansen: And you can take your stuff with you. And you better take the Web cam as well.
As "sebastian-for-u" picks up his presents and leaves the backyard, law enforcement moves into position and makes the arrest.
He’s quickly whisked away by officers and taken to this temporary booking station. After being photographed, he is questioned by police where he continues to deny that he was doing anything wrong.
Police officer: You think it’s even appropriate for a 41-year-old to cook dinner for a 13-year-old, when her parents aren’t around?
Police officer: You brought porno movies on your laptop—
Avalos: Yeah. But I—but I’m—
Police officer:I mean, you know what would have happened if you guy were to start watching those porno movies—
Avalos: I know.
Police officer:You would have had sex with her.
Avalos: Yeah, probably. Well, not—no—when I was coming—driving, I said, “No she’s only 13, how am I gonna let her watch porno movies."
Then the 41-year-old admits he’s been in trouble with the law before.
Avalos: We tried to rob a store.
Police officer: Who’s we?
Avalos: You know, me and one of my brothers.
Police officer:Did anyone get hurt?
Police officer:How’d you get caught?
Avalos: Sometimes you make really stupid mistakes. I regret for that and now look, I’m regretting for this over here, you know.
Police officer:Did you have a gun when you tried to rob the store?
Norberto: Yes and it was my own gun.
Avalos is a felon- convicted of armed robbery. He says that was five years ago and his record’s been clean ever since. He’s taken away and brought to the county jail where he’ll remain until he posts $30,000 bail. He is only the first in a long line of men who’ll be walking up our driveway.
And you’re about to meet another suspected predator who carries a gun— a marine corps sniper who says he takes a shotgun everywhere he goes.
Everyone is on high alert as the next potential sex predator approached our hidden camera house.
Online, he told a decoy pretending to be a 13-year-old, “I carry a gun everywhere I go.”
So as soon as he arrives, officers take him down. Then he’s brought in for questioning. He’s 23-year-old Jonathan Steman. He admits to the detective that he was chatting online about sex with a girl named Anna.
Jonathan Steman: I let my other head get the best of me and pretty regretful right about now ‘cause my wife comes back in three days from the Army and I’m not gonna know how to tell her this.
Steman: A bunch of vulgarities, a lot of sexual content about what I’d like to do to her. I also told her that I was in the Marine Corps, which I am. I’m waitin’—
Steman: I am active duty.
In fact, he points out that his surveillance skills as a soldier initially tipped him off that something was up.
Steman: Being in the Marine Corps as a sniper, I was pretty in tune to my surroundings. And so I noticed a couple vehicles that looked out of place, so I left the first time. I had seen this on TV before and never thought I’d be part of it. And I didn’t listen to my sixth sense that kept me alive in Iraq. And I didn’t do that here.
Steman: Yes, I did. I have my shotgun. It pretty much goes anywhere with me.
And sure enough, the police did find the gun in the truck of his car.
Detective: Alright. Is there anything else?
Steman: That’s it, sir.
There’s another man outside our house here to meet a girl who told him she was 13.
This time our decoy invites him in.
Meet 37-seven-year old Mike Vestal screenname mike_vestal69. He tells the decoy, “I must warn you I am kinda big down there.” And asks her if she wants to see—then emails her a picture of his genitals. They make plans to meet and he says “You might not want to be with boys your age when I get done with you.”
He won’t be getting into the hot tub today—
Hansen (walks out): So’d you bring your—swim trunks?
Mike Vestal: Nope.
Hansen: No. What did you bring?
Hansen: Why’d you come here today?
Vestal: It was stupid. I shoulda known better. She’s a baby.
He says he really wasn’t going to do anything with her but his chat log seems to say otherwise..
Hansen: You say that you’re a pretty “normal, horny old man. And I would love to make wild, passionate love to you.”
Vestal: Oh God.
Hansen: I’m tryin’ to understand why you thought it was a good idea to come over here to visit a 13-year-old girl.
Vestal: I don’t know. I wasn’t thinkin’.
Hansen: But you sent this picture, right?
Hansen: And that’s you?
Vestal: Yes. It’s not somethin’ I woulda normally done. I shoulda known better.
He seems to think I’m a cop and even tries to bargain with me.
Vestal: I know what the law says. But I’m really hopin’ for a warning.
Hansen: So you think you should just get a warning.
Vestal: I’m begging. I—I’m begging please
Hansen: Well, there’s only one warning I can give you. And—and this is it. That I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC. And we’re doing a story on adults who solicit minors on-line for sex.
Vestal: I have nothing else to sayexcept world please forgive me. It was stupid.
He makes his way out of the backyard through the garage where police are waiting to arrest him.
He’s taken away in an unmarked car and brought in for questioning.
Police officer:Why did you come to the house today?
Vestal: I was bored at home.
Hansen: What was some of the things that you discussed?
Vestal: Oral sex.
Police officer: Oral sex—anything else?
Vestal: Think that was it, maybe a massage.
Police officer: Did you—send any, any photos—to this person?
Vestal: Of my private parts. I’m digging myself a hole, aren’t I?
He insists that he would not have had sex with a 13-year-old.
Vestal: I f**ked up my marriage. I f*d up my life. I don’t deserve any of it. Meaning my life, my wife.
Vestal: 13 years.
And there are more married men about to show up at our hidden camera house. This is 43-year-old Manuel Uson. He’s a plant supervisor for a large automaker. He’s here after chatting online with a girl who told him she was 13.
Manuel Uson: Wow. This is your place?
Decoy: Yeah. It’s a nice house. So look, I got the hot tub uncovered.
If you’re wondering what he’s doing in this strange backyard with a girl he’s never met before.
Take a look at what he said online: Using the screen name bendix632 he types “We’re gonna take a shower both of us.” He tells the decoy, “You will give me oral sex” and using graphic language says he will do the same to her. Then he tells her “u go naked in bed when i see you sunday.” The decoy says okay and bendix632 asks “I’ll be the one gonna take off your clothes?”
Hansen (walks out): Have a seat right over there please.
Uson: Oh, hi.
Hansen: Hi. How are you? What’s happening?
Uson: I’m good.
Hansen: Please. Have a seat.
Uson: Oh, I—I—am I in trouble now?
Hansen: I’ll get to that in a minute. What did you bring?
Hansen: How old are you?
Uson: I’m-- 30-- 40.
Hansen: Yeah. 40. ‘Cause in your chat you said you were 25.
He’s really 43.
Uson: Oh, yup. Just teasing over there.
Hansen: So this is all just teasing in here. Where you say “Probably a virgin, huh?”
Uson: Yeah. (laughs)
Hansen: “How big are your—" talking about the breasts?
Uson: I guess.
Hansen: (reading from transcript) “I masturbate twice a day.”
Uson: (laughs) Just teasing on that thing. I’m just gonna go meet her. And then nothing. Nothing.
Hansen: Nothing. Because there’s a whole lot of something going on right here. You know what I mean?
Uson: It’s all just words.
He argues everything said in a chat room is just pretend.
Hansen: The problem is that you left the pretend world of the computer Internet and came here to the real world.
Hansen: Where you thought a real girl was home alone.
Uson: Yeah, but she was—
Hansen: And so it’s not pretend anymore once you’re here. Do you get that?
Uson: I know. That’s what I’m saying. I made a mistake.
He claims he just came over to bring the girl lunch.
Hansen: Did you bring condoms?
Uson: No. actually, I did. Actually—
Hansen: Oh, you did. Why don’t you put them on that bar there. Oh, there’s some right there. Extra sensitive.
Uson: I mean, she wants me to bring some. And I just bring them.
Hansen: So a 13-year-old told you to do something so you did it. You’re 40.
Uson: I made a mistake.
He says his wife and three year old are back in the Philippines so he uses the Internet to make friends. But his chat went way beyond friendship.
Hansen: You say, “I’ll buy condoms. Remember, my blank is big.”
Uson: Oh [GROANS]
Hansen: “You want me to slide that in your blank?” Now, this is over and over and over again.
And when the cameras come out, I tell him he’s walked into a Dateline investigation he says he wasn’t going to do anything wrong.
Hansen: So you’re maintaining—
Uson: Yes. I—
Hansen: That you would not have had sex with this girl.
Uson: No, no, no. really, serious. Not at all.
Hansen: In spite of the condoms.
Hansen: In spite of the—
Uson: That’s it. I mean—
Hansen: Explicit chat.
Uson: Yeah. I wouldn’t even do it.
He’ll have to that story to the police. After he’s brought into the booking station and photographed, he starts answering questions. And this time he seems to admit everything.
Police: She told you that she was 13 years old.
Manuel Uson: Yes—yeah.
Police: You talked to her about—her having oral sex.
Police: And doing it doggy style.
Police: She told you that her parents would be gone. You made arrangements to come and have sex with her?
Uson: Well, not really sex. But, you know, we just— but, I bought the condoms.
Police: You wanted to have sex with her?
He tells the detective it’s really his wife’s fault.
Uson: She’s so demanding too. That’s why I have so many problems. My wife and me—you know—have some argument. That’s why I did this stupid thing or else I wouldn’t do it.
Then he comes up with this surprising offer—he wants to go undercover for the police.
Uson: Maybe I can work for you guys. I’m really hoping to work for you guys.
Not likely. Once the interview is over, he’s taken away and locked up in the Sonoma county jail.
It’s a jail that’s about to get crowded. Our undercover house becomes so busy... men are practically running into each other.
It happens every time at least once during our undercover operation, two guys showing up almost at the same time.
While 26-year-old Vaikunth Soundarajan, a software engineer, is in the backyard—another man is heading towards our house. I’ll have to time my interview with Vaikunth just right, so the men won’t run into each other.
Decoy (hidden camera footage): Hey, I’m made some frozen lemonade. Sit down. I’m—gonna go get in my swimsuit, is that okay?
Decoy: Yeah. Okay. Pour me a drink.
Online he calls himself ‘mannbay2004.’ He makes a date for sex with a girl he believes to be thirteen. He says “I will go till u tell me to stop. The decoy says ‘If I do not stop you how far would you go?’ And mannbay2004 says ‘all the way.’” Remember this man has no idea he’s being recorded by hidden cameras.
Decoy: So, what do you want to do?
Soundarajan: Let’s see how it goes.
Decoy: Okay. So you’re playing hard to get, huh?
Soundarajan: Uh-huh (affirms).
Chris Hansen (walks out): Now let’s see how this goes. What’d you bring?
Soundarajan: It’s a condom.
Soundarajan: And lubricant.
Soundarajan: I’m sorry. Can I ask you something first?
Soundarajan: Am I gonna be like in trouble?
Hansen: Well, that’s not up to me.
Soundarajan: Oh, sh*t sh*t. I knew this. Still I came.
Hansen: If you knew this, why did you come?
Soundarajan: I don’t know why really. I fought with myself. Still I don’t know why I came.
Hansen: Well, you have condoms and lubricant there.
Soundarajan: I know. But that’s for the first thing I asked is ‘Are you a virgin.’ She said ‘no.’
Hansen: Doesn’t change the fact that she said that she was 13. And you brought gear for sex.
Soundarajan: Yeah. True.
Hansen: So here’s the other thing. Here you are, 26 years old. Talking to a 13-year-old. Saying you gotta be careful. Why? ‘There are a lot of sexual predators out there.'
Soundarajan: Am I one?
Hansen: Are you? You know, it’s against the law.
Soundarajan: Yeah, yeah. No, no. I mean, it’s bad.
It’s time to wrap up this interview and make room for our next visitor.
Hansen: Well, there’s something I gotta tell you. I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC.
Soundarajan: Sh*t Sh*t please cover my face.
We ask ‘manbay2004’ to go in the house and out the front door so this next man can come in through the garage. As our new arrival makes his way into the backyard police arrest manbay2004 in the front.
The police are so quiet that this 33-year-old has no idea what’s going on. His name is Fernando Bernal. He does computer support at a college. He’s here to meet a girl who told him she was 13.
Decoy: Hey! Oh, you brought me something.
Fernando Bernal: Yeah. (laughs)
Decoy: Yeah. How are you?
Bernal: Fine. And you?
Decoy: Good. Come on back. And you can set it down on the bar. You can—
Online he calls himself “a_latino_man559” six minutes after making contact with a decoy playing a 13-year-old he says he’s bored and horny. And proceeds to go into graphic detail about what he wants to do to her sexually. He even turns on his Webcam and sends her live pictures of his genitals. Just before he signs off he tells the girl, “I’ll be the best sex you will ever have.”
Decoy: What did you bring me?
Bernal: Brought you a hamburger. (laughs)
Decoy: I love hamburgers. Did you bring the condoms?
Decoy: Oh, cool. Cool. So what do you want to do?
Bernal: Whatever you want to do. (laughs)
Hansen: Good, good. How are you?
Bernal: My name’s—
Hansen (walks out): Why don’t you have a seat right over there on the other side, please. What’d you bring?
Bernal: Oh, it’s just some stuff.
Hansen: Some hamburgers. Please, sit down.
Bernal: Uh-huh (affirms).
Hansen: Would you like a drink?
Bernal: No. that’s okay. I’m really sorry, sir.
Hansen: Sorry for what?
Bernal: For—for being here.
Hansen: I saw you brought your bag. Were you planning on spending the night?
Bernal: Well, I brought some stuff. Because it’s a long drive. So if you’re gonna stay, whatever. Get a hotel... or stay the night.
Hansen: Or stay right here at the house.
Bernal: Well, the—that’s an option.
Hansen: Now how old are you?
Bernal: I’m 33.
Hansen: 33. And this girl you met online here, she told you she was how old?
Bernal: She was 13, I believe.
Hansen: 13. Alright, so 20 years younger than you are. Why prey on somebody who says they’re 13?
Bernal: I didn’t. I didn’t, sir. I was—I was—I don’t—
Hansen: You talked to girl who said she was 13. You bought all the stuff. And you came over—
Bernal: Yeah. They’re—yeah. But, you know.
Hansen: Yeah. You just said that a moment ago, so, no reason to lie about it. How far did you travel today?
Bernal: Three—its like three hours.
Hansen: Three hours? You must have been hoping for something really special to drive that far on a Saturday afternoon.
Bernal: Well, it—it—I needed to get out of town too so I figure just go out of town. See what happens,
Hansen: So you sent her pornographic images. These images of you. Your genitals. To a 13-year-old girl.
Bernal: I never meant any harm.
Hansen: But you would have had sex with this girl if the opportunity arose.
Bernal: No. I probably I wouldn’t. I was thinking on the way here I’d maybe—I just needed to talk, you know.
Hansen: Well, you were talking online here.
Hansen: You tell her that you’ll teach her various sex acts.
Bernal: You. I’m—I’m sorry
Hansen: Why would you risk so much for this one-time encounter? I don’t understand it.
Bernal: I—I don’t even understand it myself so.
Hansen: Do you ever watch Dateline NBC? Does this all seem a little familiar to you?
Hansen: I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC. And we’re doing a story on adults who try to meet teens online.
He’s reluctant to leave, concerned about appearing on national television.
Bernal: I’m a good person. If you guys don’t believe it. I really do believe God is going to help me through this.
What he doesn’t seem to know as he walks out of the backyard is that around the corner he has an even bigger problem than his appearance on television. The officers are back in place ready to arrest him.
After he’s brought to the booking station and photographed, he continues to tell his story to the police and admits he has a problem.
Bernal: I do have an issue with porn and sex, basically.
Police: “Porn and sex? Basically.” You seem very obsessed with wanting to teach her.
Bernal: Yeah. I—c—
Police: Is there something about that? Is that part of your issue?
Bernal: It could—yeah, it could part of my issue—
But he insists that he probably would not have had sex with a 13-year -old.
And there are still more suspects running into each other. You’ll meet one potential predator who drives by our house, parks outside and then spots another man walking up the driveway.
Outside our hidden camera house in Petaluma California, things are still getting backed up. One potential predator drives up, parks out front and sits there. Meanwhile we spot another man across the street getting out of his car.
Usually when a visitor arrives—we know exactly who he is based on his photo and information in his chat log. But as we watch this man cross the street and head up our driveway, we realize we don’t know which potential predator he is. Our decoy invites him in anyway.
Unknown man: Hey, how you doin?
Decoy: You made it.
Unknown man: I know, I did.
Decoy: Finally. Hey, sit down. Pour me some frozen lemonade—can you taste it. I wanna get in the hot tub. So, I’m gonna change into my swimsuit.
Unknown man: Perfect.
While the potential predator and our decoy chat, we’re still trying to figure out which one he is.
Decoy: So, what do you wanna do?
Unknown man: Anything you want to.
Decoy: What’d you have in mind?
Unknown man: I don’t know. I think actions speak louder than words.
I head out to meet him carrying a chat log.
Hansen: So, actions speak louder than words, huh?
Unknown man: Exactly.
Hansen: Why don’t—you’re—have a seat right over there on the stool for your first action.
But I was about to find out the chat log I have belongs to someone else.
Hansen: How old are you?
Unknown man: Seventeen.
Hansen: Try again.
Unknown man: Seventeen. I lied on my age.
Hansen: Seventeen. Why would you lie and say that you’re 29?
Unknown man: Twenty-nine. I’m not 29.
Hansen: What is your screen name?
Unknown man: My screen name?
Unknown man: It’s called—Hennessey.
Hansen: Hennessey? Okay.
Mystery solved. Our decoy quickly hands me the correct chat log-hennessey1436 -- Henry Guzman. He’s actually 20 years old. He’s what Perverted-Justice calls a “fast mover.” His chat with a girl who told him she was 13 began only a few hours ago. Wasting no time, he made a date for sex with her and then drove right over. That’s what caused the confusion.
Hansen: so you faked your name and your age
Henry Guzman: Because I knew something like this would happen.
Hansen: You knew something—
Hansen: --like this would happen.
Guzman: Why do you think I’m here, dressed like this?
Hansen: Why don’t you help me out and tell me what you came here for.
Guzman:I have no idea what’s goin on, man. I’m serious.
While I’m confronting hennessey1436 in the backyard, that other suspect is still out front sitting in his truck.
Hansen: So, who did you think you were talking to there a minute ago? That girl?
Guzman: I don’t-- . I don’t know anything about it. I’m serious.
Hansen: You don’t know anything about it?
And he doesn’t seem to know something else: That I have the entire chat log of his conversations with the decoy.
Hansen: “So, you already had sex,” you asked her?
Guzman: What is this? What is this?
Hansen: You say ‘You have condoms—can you bring ‘em?’ Do you have condoms in your car?
Hansen: Well, because—I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC, and we’re doing a story on-- (RUSTLING)—men who try to meet teens—
Hansen: --online for sex.
Guzman: Thank you very much. See you later.
Just as I’m telling hennessey1436 that he’s walked into a Dateline investigation, the man in the truck drives away and is arrested down the street.
The 20-year-old leaves the backyard and is met by police on the driveway.
Both men end up here at the booking station where their vehicles are searched and their pictures taken.
Hennessey1436 is brought in for questioning. At first he claims he didn’t know the girl’s age and says he had no intention of having sex, but then he changes his story.
Detective: When you left San Francisco, how old did you believe that she was based on the information that you had?
Detective: 13 years old. So why did you come down here to meet this girl?
Guzman: I guess to have sex.
Detective: To have sex.
He also admits to some of what he said online.
Guzman: I do remember that I said—like oh, like you know, “Bring condoms,” I guess. And I just, I’m not gonna lie, I have ‘em in my trunk. But they were not for that. So that means I’m going to jail?
Detective: yes you’re going to jail.
And what about that man who sat in his truck across from our house? Now it’s his turn to be questioned.
36-year-old Shaka Khan was invited over by a decoy posing as a young teen he met in a chat room. He brought beer and condoms just like the decoy asked.
Shaka Kahn: She goes, “My mom is gone, and I’m 13.” And we can get naked, and we can do this—and she made it sound like wow, this would be the greatest thing! At first I was like, “Oh, yeah, this is cool. This is cool.”
Police officer: Uh-huh (affirms). What else were you—did you two talk about doing? When you came over?
Kahn: She said to me to bring beer.
Police officer: What else?
Kahn: And was in the hot tub.
Police officer: Okay.
Kahn: And she wanted to have sex. But when I got there, I’m like, “Dude, I’ll kick your ass myself if you do this.” You know, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even get out of that truck. I mean I was like—just go home now.
He claims he sat in his truck debating whether to go inside but decided to leave, and that’s when he was pulled over.
Kahn: Reality check. What are you doing? You’re bringing alcohol to a minor, first of all. And this is—a little kid! Come on, dude. What is wrong with you?”
Police officer: That is not a reason why you didn’t go in the house.
Kahn: That is the reason why. I swear to you. God is my witness.
Police officer: You saw somebody going in the house and said, “What the heck is going on here?”
Kahn: Oh, the guy with the Mustang. He came in—way after I parked my truck and sat there. And I saw him went inside. But I didn’t think much of it.
When police search his truck they find the beer—and something else.
Police: We found something in the cabin.
Police officer: A device I’m not familiar with.
Kahn: laughs) Well it’s—pump for a thing—penis, right?
Police officer: Say that again?
Kahn: It’s a penis pump.
Police officer: Okay. Tell me what—what—
Kahn: I use—for yeah, it’ll pump you up. And just—
Police officer: What do you mean “pumps you up”?
Kahn: Your penis.
Police officer: Oh okay. Okay.
Kahn: And it just makes you feel good.
He says he got it a bachelor party and had no intention of using it with a 13-year-old. And that concludes the interview.
Decoys from Perverted-Justice normally set up profiles of young teens in chat rooms like Yahoo and AOL—then they wait to be contacted by adults. But here in Petaluma California, a decoy posted a personal ad on Craig’s list in the “men seeking men” section that said “Boy looking for friends.” One man answered his ad.
He’s 43-year-old Steve Cartlidge, screenname toofastforya’ll2003.
Steve starts emailing the decoy and says “Maybe I could give you your first ---" and uses a graphic term for oral sex.
He also sends “Kevin” a link to gay pornographic websites. Then he makes a date for sex with the decoy and comes on over.
Chrise Hansen (walks out): No hot tub for you? No? How you doing?
Steve Cartlidge: Okay.
Hansen: What’d you here for?
Cartlidge: Just to talk.
Hansen: And who were you going to talk to?
Cartlidge: See, I knew something was up. I saw all the cameras here.
Hansen: And why did you come over if you had a feeling something was up?
Cartlidge: I don’t know.
Hansen: You talk about oral sex. You ask him a list of very personal questions about what he’s done and where he is in his physical development.
Cartlidge: Uh-huh (affirms).
Hansen: Is that appropriate for a man your age to be asking those questions of a 13-year-old boy?
Cartlidge: No, all right. Let’s just do what we’re gonna do.
Hansen: What do you mean?
Cartlidge: Aren’t you going to arrest me?
Hansen: I’m not gonna arrest you.
Cartlidge: Then who are you?
Hansen: I’ll get to that in a minute. I have a few more questions for you. You get into graphic detail about what you wanna do with this boy sexually.
Cartlidge: Cuz that’s what he wanted and told me.
Hansen: So, it’s his fault?
Cartlidge: Not really. No. I’m taking full blame for whatever happened.
And although he seems to take full blame "toofastforya’ll2003" insists he didn’t believe the boy, Kevin, was really 13.
Hansen: Was there a conversation about you look so much older?
Cartlidge: No. But, I did tell him that I think something does not seem right.
Hansen: You also gave him a laundry list of sexual acts that you wanted to—engage with him in.
Hansen: I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC and we’re doing a story on adults who try to meet teens on the Internet.
Hansen: Now, if there’s anything else you’d like to tell us, we’d be glad to hear it.
Cartlidge: Thank you. Thank you very much.
As he exits the backyard, law enforcement gets into position...and then makes the arrest.
The 43-year-old is taken to the booking station, photographed and brought in for questioning by a detective from the Petaluma police department- he continues to claim he didn’t think the boy was really thirteen.
Detective Steve Nelson: So, did you talk to Kevin about having oral sex?
Det. Nelson: Okay. Did you talk to him about giving him his first?
Cartlidge: That’s what he was asking.
The detective also wants to find out if toofastforya’ll2003 brought alcohol...
Det. Nelson: What did you bring?
Cartlidge: Some Smirnoff and some—wine coolers.
Det. Nelson: Okay. So, you were gonna bring that to the house?
Carlidge: Uh-huh (affirms).
Cartlidge: Well, I don’t know for him or not. I mean I was edgy when I got there. I was like—“I don’t know about this.”
The detective concludes the interview.
Cartlidge: Any chance of bailing out tonight or—
Det. Nelson: Yeah, they’ll explain to you—your bail—I think at—your bail’s $30,000.
Back at the house, another potential predator is on his way in.
Decoy: You made it. You look even better in person. Have a—
Jeff Couture: Oh, thank you.
Decoy: --seat. I made some drinks. I made frozen lemon. You can pour me one.
Most of the suspected predators we meet claim they weren’t doing anything wrong—but as you’ll soon hear this next man admits he has a problem.
Jeff Couture: Decided to bring the motorcycle.
Decoy: Ooh, that’s hot. Maybe we can go for a ride later.
Couture: You bet.
He’s 34-year-old Jeffrey Couture—screen name jefe6. He’s here to meet a girl he thinks is a 13-year-old virgin. Online he said “Are you thinking you might want to have sex with me...” then he asks her if she’s ever received oral sex. The decoy says nope and he says, “Would you like me to?”
Decoy: So, what do you wanna do?
Couture: What do you have in mind?
Decoy: I asked you first.
Couture: Thought you were supposed to be in the hot tub already.
Decoy: Oh, I’m just getting dressed. I’ve got a surprise for you.
Chris Hansen (walks out): I guess I’m probably not the surprise you expected, am I?
Couture: You are exactly the surprise I—
Hansen: Why don’t you—
Hansen: --have a seat over there for me?
Couture: You’re exactly what I was expecting.
Hansen: I am?
Couture: Pretty much.
Hansen: Then why did you come anyway?
Couture: You know—I don’t know. ‘Cause I’m really stupid. I’ll tell you, I spent a lot a time online in the last 10 years.
Couture: Developing these stupid fantasies. And I actually went so far a few months ago as to delete my ID’s. To just get rid of it all.
Hansen: You knew you had a problem.
Couture: I knew I had a problem. And then the other day, I got back online.
Hansen: Is this addiction?
Hansen: Is it loneliness? Is it something that you have tried to get help for in the past, but were—
Couture: I haven’t tried to get help. I’ve tried to deal with it myself.
Jeff says after a decade-long obsession and an attempt to change his ways, the lure was just too strong.
Hansen: Meeting a 13 year old girl.
Couture: Well, you know, 13 is actually way younger than I would ever be interested.
He says he’d really prefer 16- or 17-year-olds. Then he seems to imply that he wanted to get caught.
Couture: You happened to ask if I ever sought help. Maybe I just did. I fully expected that this was a sting.
Hansen: But is there a part of you that really wishes there was this—13-year-old girl here and not me and the rest of this.
Couture: You know what? I don’t know if there is. If there were really a 13-year-old girl who looked like your friend there, then-- (laughs) then I don’t know. (laughs)
Hansen: You’re a good-looking guy who presumably could get dates.
Couture: Absolutely. I have a girlfriend.
Hansen: You have a girlfriend.
Couture: Uh-Hmm (affirms). She’s a doctor.
Hansen: How’s that gonna go over?
Couture: Oh, it’s not gonna go over well.
Hansen: Did you bring any wine with you or --
Couture: I did.
Hansen: You did.
Couture: Uh-Hmm (affirms).
Hansen: For a 13-year-old girl. Condoms?
Couture: Oh, I-- (laughs) I intended to. And I was running late and I didn’t.
Hansen: So, you didn’t.
Hansen: So, if you needed ‘em, you could just go get ‘em later.
Couture: Oh, hell yeah. I mean, trust me, there’s no way I was gonna.. you know. Honestly, I don’t think I was gonna have sex with a 13-year-old girl.
But since he came to the house, he finds out he’ll be appearing on national TV.
Couture: Well, that’s actually unexpected. (laughs)
Hansen: So, you thought I was a police officer.
Couture: Yeah. I have no idea who you are. (laughs)
And as he leaves the backyard—something else he might find unexpected.
He explains to the detective why chatting online became an addiction.
Couture: It was a fantasy. And it frustrated me that that fantasy wasn’t reality.
But he says his attempt to stop didn’t work. And that’s how he ended up in custody.
Couture: It’s like a drug. It’s like it was definitely an addiction. I fell back into it. Recently, I’ve had feelings of excitement about a young girl losing her innocence.
The detective asks him about his computer.
Police officers: Any pictures of sexually explicit pictures of children on it?
Couture: I might. I saved all the pictures that anyone sent me when I was chatting with them in the chat rooms.
Police: And these would be pictures someone sent you?
Police: People you’re chatting with at the time that were children?
Couture: I thought I might regret deleting them. I thought maybe, you know, I might wanna masturbate to them at some point.
If police do find those pictures on his computer, he’ll likely be charged with possession of child pornography.
That’s in addition to the charge that he and all the other men face: attempted lewd or lascivious acts involving children. They’ve all pleaded not guilty. Preliminary hearings will begin this week.
After the men caught in our sting were arrested, police armed with search warrants went to the suspects homes and offices and seized computers and other evidence. Sergeant Matthew Stapleton of the Petaluma Police department says that’s when he realized the actions of these suspected predators have had far reaching consequences.
Sgt. Matt Stapleton: There were spouses and children that were devastated when they learned of this development. And, their lives were turned upside down.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: So, it’s not just this guy out there. There’s collateral damage in these cases.
Sgt. Stapleton: There’s a lot of people affected in a sad way.
And there are many more men who turned their lives and the lives of their families upside down. So far we’ve introduced you to 11 men. That’s not even half the total number of suspects who show up at our hidden camera house.
Next week we’ll introduce you to the rest of them—more men in the military, computer engineers, and a respected San Francisco physician.
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