A month ago, Dateline launched its third investigation into a growing national epidemic—grown men trolling the Internet, many looking for sex with children. This time, to expose them, we set up multiple hidden cameras in a house in Southern California.
A decoy coaxes the men in, but instead of finding a 12- or 13-year-old home alone, the men looking for sex will meet me.
Here’s an example of the kind of confrontation we’re in for: A 37-year-old, Kurt Lemke, a truck driver, calls himself “haloballfan” online. He thinks he’s here to meet a 13-year-old boy named Dave, but we really send him a decoy photo. During his chat, he makes plans to give the boy oral sex.
And that’s about all he’ll say, so I tell him who I am:
And he runs out and doesn’t want to hear anymore.
But unlike our previous hidden camera operations, where after leaving the house some men were able to make a run for it, this time things will be different. This time law enforcement will be waiting.
It was almost two years ago when Dateline conducted its first investigation into online predators. A year later, we did it again. In two different investigations, in two different states, dozens of men showed up at our undercover houses after chatting about sex online and then making a date with a minor.
One man who sent obscene video of himself to someone posing as a 13-year-old was a New York City firefighter whom we then confronted. Another man was a rabbi. He was not happy when he found out he would be exposed on national television.
Both of our investigations were watched by millions of people. It was the talk of radio and cable television shows for weeks. So have sexual predators learned any lesson at all?
Apparently not, as you’ll witness firsthand in our latest investigation.
As we have in the past, we enlisted the help of volunteers from Perverted-Justice, a watchdog group that regularly catches online predators by posing as kids online. But this time Perverted-Justice volunteers wanted to get law enforcement involved, so before our investigation began, they contacted the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Sgt. Chad Bianco, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department: We were approached by Perverted-Justice to do this large sting and they told us that “Dateline” would be following along. We jumped at the chance.
Sgt. Chad Bianco and a Perverted-Justice volunteer screenname “Frag” devised a plan.
Sgt. Bianco: We were in telephone contact and two-way radio contact with Perverted-Justice and they would let us know when someone was getting close.
The sergeant and his men, staked out in a mobile home parked in the driveway next door, are ready and waiting for suspects to show up at the house in an attempt to molest a child.
The detectives will watch as men enter our house and then wait for Frag’s signal. The cuffs will go on potential predators because Perverted-Justice has already turned over important evidence to detectives—chat logs filled with sexually graphic material, men planning sex acts with a 12 or 13-year-old.
Sending those messages alone may only be a misdemeanor in California. But if the men show up at the house, there’s no mistaking their intent to have sex with someone under the age of 14— and that’s a felony says Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise: Not just the fantasy, because that’s what’s happening on the Internet. They’re having their fantasies. They’re satisfying their urges for foreplay or whatever. They actually have to get them to follow through and show that there is an intent and make some proactive effort to meet that child.
Since almost 20 men showed up each time during our first two investigations, we’re prepared for a big turn out, but it’s hard to predict.
How many men will take the giant step and go from the chat room to our living room? We’re set up in a house in southern California ready and waiting for the knock on the door.
For the next three days we’ll be greeting guests who have no business being here.
Volunteers from Perverted-Justice, experts at pretending to be kids online, are in all types of chat rooms—from local area chats to rooms setup for sexual preferences. And they’ve set up profiles of 12- and 13-year-olds, which include photos and other personal information. Some are on Web sites like MySpace.com and Teenspot, social networking Web sites.
They’re waiting to be hit on by adults looking for sex. The Perverted-Justice decoys tell the adults they are home alone and sometimes they say they are interested in sex, a few pretend they are eager to meet.
In a matter of seconds, men start chatting with the undercover decoys. Typically, a chat will begin with each person typing in their age, sex, and location. One decoy, screenamed “bubblebeth2005” has a picture in her profile of a “Dateline” staffer taken when she was 12. There was no mistaking this is a child.
A man who has seen her picture and her age wastes no time before talking dirty. He’s “kinky_man_in_corona.” He says he’s 40 and shows “bubblebeth” a picture of a penis on his profile. And as you’ll read below, on an excerpt of the chat log, he’s making plans for sex with the girl whose profile says she’s 12.
His chat, along with all of the other chats sent to our decoys, gets too graphic and disgusting to show. Usually, the men like to get very specific about what they want to do sexually.
And he comes walking up to the driveway of the house. “Kinky-man-in-corona” arrives, looking to meet “bubblebeth.”
We did background research on him and learned he’s really 43-year-old Walter Edward Babst—a married man with children.
He had no idea he’s being recorded by our hidden cameras.
And you’ll never guess what this man does for a living.
It’s a high school not too far from our undercover house.
More men underway
The men were asked to walk down the side of the house in California and come in through the sliding glass door in the back.
Several men made it into the kitchen, and as soon as they saw me, made a run for it. But they didn’t get very far: They ran right into the arms of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
One man, “uncommonsense2,” says he’s 34 years old and thinks he’s talking to a 13-year-old girl. He brags that his genitals are pierced three times. And then he tells our decoy “getting you out of your clothes is the best.”
Before “uncommonsense2” or any other man comes to the house, a volunteer from Perverted-Justice will usually speak with him on the phone. Thirteen-year-old “Del,” her screename, is able to pose as a girl or a boy.
He’s 39-year-old Scott Smith who’s in the moving business. Unbelievably, he was caught by a Perverted-Justice member talking to a young teen online a month earlier and was given a warning and told to stop. But it doesn’t appear he’s learned his lesson.
Smith’s brought along alcohol—a six-pack of Smirnoff Ice.
He also admits to chatting with young girls on the Web site MySpace.com
Smith, like so many other men who walked through our door, says he wasn’t planning on doing anything.
His face and something else.
And as for the alcohol he brought, he says that wasn’t for the 13-year old—it was for her mother.
For three days, there is anothernon-stop parade of potential predators. Many of the men like “uncommonsense2” brought gifts like alcohol and condoms. One man, “mr-b-jones2” has a bag full of goodies.
Jerry Griffith, 45, arrived at the house to meet a 13-year-old girl. Online, our decoy asked him if he’d bring a present. He says “You got any ideas?” She types back “I like pie.”
So what do you suppose is in the bag when he arrives?
Griffith says he thought the girl he’s here to meet is 22 years old, and at first can’t remember her name.
But I remind him that there’s a transcript of everything that was said.
I refresh his memory by reading some of his chat log.
When a suspect brings gifts like these to a possible liaison, it actually helps law enforcement says the deputy district attorney.
Michelle Paradise, Deputy District Attorney: It helps show intent. What was the purpose of them going there? They brought the items that they talked about in the same conversations that they talked about having sex.
So far you’ve met three men who showed up at our hidden camera house... they are just the beginning of what will become the largest turnout we’ve ever gotten.
And as you’ll see these potential predators come from all walks of life and all age groups. When it comes to occupations, the high school teacher is far from the only one whose profession will shock you.
Our latest investigation of Internet predators reveals the most ethnically diverse group of men we have seen so far. And a wide range in age from 19 years old to 65.
Michelle Paradise, Deputy District Attorney: It doesn’t surprise me at all that they would be from all walks of life.
And Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise says it’s also a problem in every socio-economic group as well.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: It’s a pervasive problem?Paradise: Across the board.
Men are pulling up to our hidden camera house in all types of vehicles, from junkers to expensive luxury cars. And their occupations run the gamut. This man, screenname “cbeachdude,” who drives up to our house in his Mercedes Convertible is an actor. He thinks he’s about to meet a 13-year-old boy.
Online, “cbeachdude” describes in detail his plans for sex with the boy in the shower. He walked into our kitchen, and “Del,” posing as the 13-year-old, invites him in.
He gets quite the surprise when the decoy doesn’t walk out.
Instead, he meets me. Remember, none of the men know they’ve been recorded on hidden cameras.
He’s 34-year-old Chris Moore, and like so many of the men I confront, he tries to lie about how old he thinks the boy is.
And that isn’t his only mistake. Like many of the other men who show up at our house, while online, he makes it clear he thinks he’s coming for sex with a 13-year-old and he sends a picture of his genitals.
It becomes a tearful performance for an actor who says he’s played many roles.
If that’s true, how did he get from being a stand-in for blockbuster movies to standing in our kitchen?
And it doesn’t look good for the next guy either. Stephen Coates, 56, goes by the screenname “m4pixeleen.” He works in the biotech industry and is a songwriter on the side. He even has a Web site where he sells his work.
He thinks he’s chatting online with a 13-year-old, but it’s actually a Perverted-Justice decoy who set up a profile on the social networking Web site called MySpace.com. He lies and tells her he’s 42 years old, and as you’ll hear when we read you some of his chat log, it appears he’s trying to gain the girl’s trust.
m4pixeleen (chat transcript): do you talk about sex and things like that?m4pixeleen: you can tell me anything, it’s ok.greendaychickk: I havem4pixeleen: it is funm4pixeleen: you seem like a very sweet girl
He goes on to explain to the girl he thinks is a 13-year-old virgin that they should have oral sex because intercourse is a big step and he adds... “sometimes people just do anal sex first... then you’re still a virgin.”
And then he starts asking about her body. How tall is she? How big are her breasts? And one of the most frequently asked questions, if she has hair in private places. When the decoy says, “not really,” the 56-year-old says “that’s terribly sexy.”
He later sends a picture of his genitals and continues to talk about sex with our decoy posing as a 13-year-old. He tells her he’s trying to be discreet so his wife and son don’t find out.
It appears the songwriter has brought along some of his own work. But he quickly realizes he won’t be playing it for a child, and soon he’ll be singing a different tune.
But apparently not so stupid as this next guy: 40-year-old Daniel Pulido works for a local trucking repair company. He’s hoping to meet a 13-year-old girl home alone.
He’s another one who sent pictures over the Internet of his genitals. Then, he asks the decoy is she’d give him oral sex.
He’s in for a big surprise when I walk in.
But he quickly comes up with a story: He tells me he was really here to teach the girl a lesson about the dangers of talking to strangers online.
Daniel Pulido may really be the one who needs to learn a lesson. You won’t believe what he admits to me.
And he wasn’t the only one who saw Dateline’s earlier investigations on Internet predators and still showed up. “Southbayguy310” did too, and you won’t believe what we found out about him.
A year ago he was caught talking to a Perverted-Justice volunteer who was posing as a 12-year-old. His name and other personal information were posted once before on Perverted-Justice’s Web site which usually means his employer, family and neighbors were contacted by Perverted-Justice members and directed to his sexually charged chat log.
But it seems he didn’t get the message. He’s back online with the same screename “southbayguy310.”
This time, he thinks he’s talking to a girl—the picture we sent him is of a “Dateline” staffer when she was 13 years old. Three minutes into the chat, he asks the girl if she’s a virgin and then he wants to know if she’s ever had “sex with a guy from online before?”
The girl says “ya” and so he asks “Do you want to meet and see what’s up?”
That all happens in less than eight minutes from the start of the chat. And as you’ll hear it gets more disgusting:
southbayguy310 (chat transcript): can I videotape us? girL: r u like gonna sell it? southbayguy310: lol no girl: i don’t gotta cam though southbayguy310: i want to watch it and masturbate to it.
The decoy asks him to bring Mike’s Hard Lemonade and “southbayguy310” says he’ll bring a camera, hoping she’ll let him take naked pictures of her.
As he’s driving to our house, he calls the decoy to get directions. He finds the house but just as he’s pulling up, another man being arrested outside. He calls the decoy to find out what’s going on Del quickly makes up a story saying her neighbor was arrested for dealing drugs.
Amazingly, the police activity isn’t enough stop him. He comes through the door—32-year-old Keith Williams. He’s got the alcohol and the camera. He doesn’t seem all that surprised to see me.
But in his chat he makes “what he was going to do” pretty clear.
But when our cameras come out of hiding, he keeps talking.
Our first two stings averaged 18 men over three days. Amazingly, in southern California, on the first day alone, 14 men arrive for what they think will be a possible meeting for sex with a 12 or 13-year-old.
On the second day, it gets so busy we actually have three men show up within minutes of each other.
Three men arrive at the same time
Unlike our previous investigations, this time detectives from the Riverside County Sheriff’s department are waiting outside. A Perverted-Justice volunteer alerts the detectives about the pile up. They’re staked out in a mobile home next door.
One man pulled up, parks across the street and waits. While he’s sitting in his car, another walks up and starts pacing in front of our house. We soon discovered yet another potential predator parked on a side street.
Finally, the man standing in front of the house, who calls himself “jazzeman04,” decides to come up the driveway and into the house.
He’s 19-year-old Erik Pallesen, there to meet a girl he thinks is 12 years old. Instead, he meets me.
Meanwhile, outside, both of the other men continue to sit in their cars.
Inside, “jazzeman04,” decides to cut our conversation short. He makes a run for it.
The detectives spring in to action arresting the man sitting in his car across the street, then “jazzman04,” and then the man parked on the side street. This all happens less than six minutes from the time the first car pulls up.
As for that man who sat in his car while another man walked in the house? He’s a criminal investigator, a federal agent working for the department of Homeland Security.
At one point, the crowd of potential predators gets so large, Sgt. Chad Bianco, who has a total of 15 people working for him, runs out of manpower.
Sgt. Chad Bianco, Riverside County Sheriff's department: I had no one available. We had all of my investigators were dealing with people that we had arrested and there was… you still had people coming to the house.
The sergeant is forced to put suspects in the mobile home until back-up arrives, that way he can go out and arrest more. The handcuffed men are told to keep quiet.
Sgt. Bianco: They were very cooperative. They knew there were other suspects that were arriving. They knew we were going out to arrest them and we told them that they better not run.
The next suspects to arrive were actually a couple, two men who were hoping to have sex with a boy. After sitting in their car for awhile, they decide to come in, but then appear to get cold feet. That’s when the investigators move in.
There’s yet another twosome: 20-year-old Sebastian Rodriguez arrives after chatting online about sex with a decoy posing as a 12-year-old girl. He’s even brought along a friend.
Sebastian also brought condoms and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, just what the decoy asked for.
When Sebastian and his friend leave, it appears they think they’re off the hook. But not for long. They are arrested as well.
On day two, 22 men show up at our house, and 21 men are arrested. Sebastian’s friend was taken in for questioning and later released. Our two day total comes to 35 and with one more day to go, they just keep coming.
26-year-old Christopher Urban calls himself “six-pack-so-cali.”
He’s at the house after making plans for sex with a 13-year-old girl named Kelly. He’s brought along Bacardi Rum.
That’s what he says now. But when he was online, “six-pack-so-cali” not only had a sexually disgusting chat, he also turned on his Web cam and sent photos of himself naked close ups we can’t show you.
Urban: I’m sorry, you’re right, you’re right. I know I wasn’t thinking that’s what — even coming down here. I mean look at me. I didn’t even take a shower. If I was coming to do something like that, I would have taken a shower. I mean that’s the first thing you do. I mean look at me, I’m so dirty.Hansen: I’ll tell you what’s dirty, is this conversation you had. (Chris points to the chat log.)
It was the first time we’d heard the “I didn’t take a shower” defense. He can try telling that to the cops.
More common excuses, defenses
“Producerpaul2001” is Paul Constantineseu, a guitar salesman claims he’s at the wrong address.
And his next excuse? He got her age wrong.
Perhaps his computer flipped out when he typed in his own age. He said he was 24 years old, he’s really 40. And as for the decoy, the chat log shows she told him she was 13.
“Producerpaul2001” leaves and you know what happens next.
A man with the screenname “guy-from-mars83,” seems to thinks it’s perfectly legal for an adult to talk online to a 13-year-old about meeting for sex and then show up at her house. He’s 23-year-old Inderjeet Singh.
having sex with a 13-year old girl before you could get in trouble.
But it turns out, I don’t have to. The sheriff’s detectives are only too happy to give “guy-from-mars83” a crash course in how the law works.
This next man who arrived told us he’s was trying sell a house. 65-year-old Charles Harding was screenamed “hardchuck1.” He was at the house to meet a 13-year-old boy. Harding jumped right away when he saw me. I was about the last person he's expecting to see.
(chat transcript) what are you looking for I could be our grandpa into young boys your age love to cuddle them, carress their body work my—and it goes on from there
Finally, he decides to tell the truth. And he actually even admits that he might have had sex with the boy.
Then he talks about a book he reads that fills him with fantasies.
There’s much more to this man’s story, as police will find out.
During each of our Dateline stings, we tell these men their stories are going to be exposed on national television.
The teacher who wanted to get naked and have sex with a 12-year-old turned to leave, and puts a shirt over his head.
As for the actor who made plans online for sex in the shower with someone he thought was 13, I told him he's about to get another role.
And remember those two men who admitted they’d watched Dateline?
One of them, “southbayguy310” not only saw Dateline’s earlier investigation, he was also caught online before by Perverted-Justice and unbelievably, he drove by our house while detectives where still arresting another man. He came in anyway.
Perverted-Justice has been sending its information directly to the sheriff’s detectives who have been camped outside the sting house for the past three days. They’ve been arresting men in record numbers, and charging them with attempting to molest a child—a felony. The number of men is so high it surprises everyone, even the lead investigator and the deputy district attorney Michelle Paradise.
Sgt. Chad Bianco: I did not expect this many suspects arriving at the house. Michelle Paradise, deputy district attorney: I was surprised at how many actually came in just that period of time. It was alarming. What is happening down the street? What is happening around the corner? What is happening within our county?
In three days, 51 men chatted online with a decoy posing as a 12 or 13-year-old, spoke on the phone, got in some type of vehicle and drove to our house. And out of the 51, all but one were arrested.
Some went easily, others at first made a dash for it. One way or the other, they all ended up at a temporary booking station set up at a parking lot.
If you think what the potential predators had to say to us was surprising, wait until you hear what they admit to detectives. This man had a secret life he hid from his family.
Police officer: But you have had sex with men before?Roberto Forte: It happens.Police officer: It happens. Does your wife know this?Forte: No she doesn’t.
After the men have been arrested, they are driven away in an unmarked car and brought to a makeshift booking station.
“Kinky-man-in-corona,” or Walter Babst, the high school teacher, declines to comment. But the man who came ready with apple pie, whipped, and contraceptive cream does talk.
Police officer: Are you on probation or parole? Jerry Griffith: I’ve never even had a ticket, I’ve never done anything. I mean this is like the one time in my life I ever fucked up and I shouldn’t have come over here. I have a wife at home you know, I should be at home trying to fix things between me and her.
Detectives question the married songwriter who showed up looking for sex with a 13-year-old.
Police officer: You brought Viagra, you brought lubricants?Stephen Coates: That’s all there in the car in case I would have run into someone else, not necessarily this girl.
And the federal agent can’t seem to stop talking to the cops.
Michael Burks: My father was a police officer. I was a police officer. I work for the Department of Homeland security. I understand you guys have a job to do and I’m not trying to tell anything else other than that. I swear to God, as God as my witness, I’m wearing a St. Michael’s medal right now, okay? I was not going to do anything with her.
But the detective doesn’t seem to be buying his story.
Police officer: I am telling you I don’t believe that you didn’t intend to have sex at some point with the girl.Burks: Sir, I swear to God.Police officer: It would have happened, I guarantee you, it would have happened.
And he has one more thing to say to the disgraced federal agent.
Police officer: In your position, you should have known better. You know the law. That’s even worse. You know what, that puts a bad mark on my job, on everybody. Every cop in this country you put a bad mark on.Burks: I know, sir.
And as for the 65-year-old who told us he’d be willing to have sex with a 13-year-old, believe it or not, all he wants to do is call his mom.
Chuck Harding: I should call my mother and let her know that I got home safely.Police officer: Well, that’s gonna be arranged through the jail.Harding: She’ll be worried that I didn’t get home because I was supposed to meet at her place.
Because this is the first time law enforcement has stepped in and arrested the men right after they left the sting house, this is the first time we get to see all of the men’s personal belongings which leaves little doubt as to their intent.
We saw cameras, CDs that contain some pornography, a tube of lube, a sex toy in a gym bag, Viagra, among other things.
The cops work from morning until night booking the suspects, towing their cars, and shippingthem off to jail.
In all, 50 men were booked on a variety of charges involving crimes against children, ranging from felony charges of attempted lewd acts with a child younger than 14 — to sending child pornography.
If watching the men in our report so far has disturbed you, wait until you meet these men. As the detectives start digging into their backgrounds, it becomes clear some of them have frightening criminal histories.
More arrests lead us to some dangerous pasts. It turns out some of the potential sexual predators have lengthy rap sheets and a trail of very real victims.
When I confronted Walter Babst, the high school teacher, he said, “I need you to arrest me and take me to jail and execute me.”
He was chatting online about getting naked and having sex with a girl who said she was 12.
Well, he was arrested and did go to jail. But guess what he did once he was bailed out.
He went back to the classroom. The school hadn’t yet heard about the teacher’s arrest, so two days after he came looking for sex with a minor, Walter Edward Babst was back teaching at his high school.
It was six days after the teacher’s arrest— once the cops and Babst’s lawyer contacted the school— that Babst was suspended without pay.
Some students were surprised at the news of his arrest.
Kenny, student: Everyone’s reaction was just kind of shocked.Alexa, student: In a way I’m kind of relieved that he’s gone, I’m really happy that they actually caught him.
But others hinted that the teacher had a history.
Christina, student: He has looked at my butt or looked down our shirts.
We heard that from other students as well, although “Dateline” checked with the school and it had no complaints against the teacher.
Some had criminal histories
As shocking as it is for someone in a position of trust to be charged with attempting to molest a child, other men caught in our sting frightened us even more. That’s because they have criminal histories— some involving violence or threats against women.
Daniel Allen took the friendly approach.
48-year-old Allen, screename “trying-2b-normal,” promised to teach a girl who said she was 13 different sexual positions and show her what a man really likes.
But when I confront him, he says it was curiosity that brought him here—not sex.
Curiousity, maybe, but his chat log suggests something else.
“Why do you hate to see that?” “’Cause it’s like I’m some old pervert—but girls your age are so much more –”
Then, he admits this isn’t his first time.
But this isn’t the first time he’s been caught by law enforcement. Several years ago, Daniel Allen was convicted of willfully, maliciously and repeatedly stalking a woman causing her to fear for her safety and the safety of her family. He was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation.
And here’s another man with a criminal history: Joseph Federico, who thought he’d be meeting a 12-year-old girl home alone. He has a violent past.
Sgt. Bianco: He did have a conviction for manslaughter and he did do prison time for that.
It appears he saw an earlier Dateline investigation.
Our investigation in Southern California netted a record number of potential predators— 50 of the men were arrested and all but one were charged with felonies— including attempted child molestation.
While that number is alarming you haven’t heard the most shocking part— unbelievably some men who show up at our house thinking they might be having sex with a 12 or 13-year-olds are registered sex offenders.
They’re supposed to be known to law enforcement. But despite their history they’re free to come and go, and one of them walked into into our house.
Our hidden cameras are rolling as 68 year old Robert Emmet Lyons stands in our kitchen. Online he calls himself “pavlov1234.” He’s here to meet a 13-year-old boy. Lyons claims he’s only 28.
In fact, Lyons was arrested only five months ago for a lewd sex act with a person 15 or younger.
The terms of his probation require he see a counselor and he says he did that just two weeks ago.
Now, it was time to tell him he was going to be exposed on national television.
Once Lyons leaves he’s arrested. And as soon as police are involved, he decides he’s said enough.
Lyons: At this point I want to talk to an attorney.
This next man also has a criminal record—an extensive one.
Sgt. Chad Bianco: He was on active parole. He was a registered sex offender and he knocked on someone’s door, thankfully it was ours.
Sgt Chad Bianco from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department dug up the criminal past of another arrival— he’s 48-year-old Jean Pierre Michael Wehry.
Sgt. Bianco: He has a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon that went back to I believe 1981. He was convicted and sentenced to three years for rape. in 2000 he was also sent to prison for failure to register as a sex offender.
Despite being a convicted rapist, here he is tonight at our undercover house after making plans for sex with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy.
Online, he told the decoy that he was a promotional photographer, promoting such films as “Kindergarten Cop” and some gay porn films. Then he tells the decoy he can help launch the boy’s modeling career.
But there’s a catch: He writes, “How can I promote someone I never had lots of hot sex with?” The decoy agrees to sex in exchange for the career help.
So eager was this registered sex offender, that he boarded a bus and then walked more than two miles to get to the sting house.
And he wastes no time trying to get to our decoy.
This registered sex offender says he’s here looking for work. But what type of work could he expect to find at 11 p.m. on a Friday night?
But what about all that sex chat with someone who told him he was 13?
He insists that someone must have used his screenname and set him up.
But that’s not what it says in his chat log.
He seems even more sorry to hear that he’s apart of a “Dateline” investigation.
But the police disagree. And this guy knows his rights.
During our latest investigation, it didn’t take long for Sgt. Chad Bianco to uncover the fact that some of the men who came in our door had violent criminal pasts.
Sgt. Bianco: They’re nice men or nice boys that appear on the Internet, but when they actually show up at your front door or in your living room, then you find out who really was on the other end of that internet connection.
The thought of one man meeting up with a real child is scary: He’s a registered sex offender and he’s making a bee-line for the decoy who says she’s a 13-year -old girl.
His name is Greg Karnos. Back in 1999, seven years before he walked into our house, he was convicted of attempting lewd acts with not one but seven children, 15 years old and younger. Real children... not decoys. Officer Joe Meister investigated the case in a neighborhood near Losa Angeles
Officer Joe Meister: I contacted the victim, she told me she was walking to school, saw a man standing next to his car masturbating.
Meister discovered Karnos hanging out near the school where these sex crimes were reported and approached him. When questioned, Karnos admitted everything. And many of his victims were able to identify him.
Officer Meister: He said “Yes, it was me.” And I was shocked that he told me that. I asked him if he was around junior high schools—we had a 10-year-old victim. And he said no, “I don’t do it around 10-year-olds, I just do it around high school girls.”
Karnos was sentenced to a year and a half in prison and five years probation, apparently not enough to deter him from coming here.
And off he goes, into the hands of the riverside county sheriff’s department.
And when it comes to his Miranda rights, he seems to know the drill.
He may be silent now, but many prosecutors around the country including Riverside County’s Michelle Paradise are not afraid to say out loud that they don’t believe most sex predators—especially those addicted to the Internet can ever be reformed.
Hansen: Based upon your experience, if one of these guys serves three or four years and gets out, would it surprise you if he got right back on the Internet and started this activity again?Michelle Paradise, Riverside County district attorney: It wouldn’t surprise me if he got right back on the Internet an hour after he got out.Hansen: An hour...Paradise: Yes.
In fact, as we found out, see she may not be far off. But some experts think that doesn’t have to be that way.
Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic: What society’s really been unable to do is come to any kind of a clearer understanding of whether these men are bad. Or whether they are ill.Dr. Berlin: I think some are bad and some are ill. And some may be a combination of both.
He’s been treating patients with sexual compulsionsfor the past 25 years. He says some of what we saw in our investigation is a result of 24 hour a day/7 day a week access to the Internet.
Dr. Berlin: There is a distortion of reality and fantasy to some extent. that people feel as though they’re playing a game and then ultimately and sadly sometimes cross a line that they might not otherwise have crossed.
That doesn’t mean Dr. Berlin believes these men shouldn’t be punished, but he says it must be combined with intense treatment and monitoring that in some cases might last a lifetime.
And he says there’s hope for many of the men arrested during our investigation. Doctor Berlin recently conducted a five-year study in which 600 sex offenders, many of whom targeted children, received intensive treatment. Less than 10 percent were arrested again for a sex crime.
Hansen: The natural reaction after seeing a story like this is to say “Lock these guys up. Throw away the key.”Dr. Berlin: There’s nothing about prison alone that will erase those cravings or enhance their capacity to successfully resist acting upon them, so unless we have both a strong criminal justice component and a strong public health component in my judgment were doing society tremendous disservice.
Everyone can agree that the current system is not working. Sexual offenders are able to prey on kids again and again. Just ask this next woman you’re about to meet. When she was 9 years old, she was repeatedly molested in her bedroom.
And the man who was convicted of that crime is about to come knocking on our door.
It's been a disturbing scene, watching grown men show up hoping to have sex with a 12- or 13-year-old child, in our investigation the child has been a decoy.
But for some of these men, there are real victims.
Dazarie Holcomb: I can't believe that he's still out there doing this.
Dazarie Holcomb was stunned when Dateline tracked her down and told her about this man from her past.
Holcomb: I'm just floored. It's just sickening.
He's 42-year-old Thomas Bodnar. We found him online with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy. Bodnar said he loved him and asked if he could be his first.
Hansen: So how's it going.
Bodnar runs out the door as soon as he sees me and gets tackled by investigators. And with his head bleeding from the tackle, Bodnar speaks to the detective at the booking station.
And the child he molested in that case 20 years ago was Dazarie Holcomb. She was only a third grader when she first met Bodnar.
Holcomb: He was great, he was wonderful. You would trust him. I mean, anybody would.
He was a volunteer at a boys club "special friend program." Dazarie's mom went to Bodnar for male companionship for her three children because their father wasn't around.
Holcomb: He used to just like I mean go above and beyond the call of duty as far as a big brother figure, I mean he was just supposedly this great guy.
But not long after he befriended Dazarie and her family, Bodnar began to molest the three children one by one.
Holcomb: He got my brother Ed the worst. He's mentally challenged so I think that he got the worst of the sexual abuse and I was in the middle and then my brother my youngest brother was...got the least of the sexual abuse.
Dazarie describes how he would come to her room in the middle of the night. She was nine years old.
Holcomb: I would wake up out of a dead sleep to him French kissing me and touching my privates.
Dazarie finally told her mother about the abuse. She went straight to the police.
Jerry Moore: I met them at the front counter where I interviewed all four of them
It was 1985 when Sgt. Jerry Moore of the Salem Police Department in Oregon wrote this police report detailing the repeated incidents of child molestation.
Moore: I certainly had enough to know that there was some criminal behavior going on here and that these children were in danger.
A detective questioned Bodnar who admitted to almost everything. He was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Holcomb: It was a devastation to all of us. We still suffer from what he's done to us.
And his trail of victims doesn't end there. It also led to Palm Springs, California. In 1999 he was convicted of oral copulation with a person under the age of 16.
Hearing of Bodnar's latest arrest brought back haunting memories for Dazarie -- of a shattered childhood.
Holcomb: You ask yourself how can this happen. How many more innocent children? They're losing their innocence because of him.
As for what he was doing at our house, he's not admitting to anything.
So what will happen to him now? Riverside County California Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise is counting on sending him back to prison. In fact if she has her way, all the men arrested in our sting will spend time behind bars.
Paradise: We will look at all the cases individually, but rest assured they'll all get jail time if not prison time.
Several of the men have pled not guilty. Others have not yet gone before a judge. But as we know some of these men will get out. And the chances are good they'll be back on their computers. So what can you do to protect your kids?
Teri Schroeder, I-Safe: If you could actually look through cybr glasses and see who's peering in your window, who's in your daughter's room, who's reading your daughter's blog, who's cyber-stalking your son-- it's reality and the fact is we've become very ignorant of those types of things because we can't see it.
And it is what parents often don't see that can have tragic consequences for kids online, according to Teri Schroeder who is president of I-SAFE -- an organization devoted to online safety.
Hansen: Do you get the sense that parents are starting to understand how important this is?Schroeder: You know, we're seeing more numbers. I think parents have known this has been around. It's just their attitude is "It doesn't happen in my house. It's not going to happen to my son or daughter."
I-SAFE travels the country warning parents and teens how not to become a victim of computer predators. What hits home, Schroeder says, is when teens learn just how often their peers are solicited for sex online by an adult.
Schroeder: There may be 300 kids sitting in that assembly and we'll say, "Every fifth one should stand up. Look there you go. You've seen it. You are the ones that are going to be approached by a predator."
And she says, they begin to see just how vulnerable some of them have made themselves.
Schroeder: You can hear a pin drop when they start seeing the stories of others being hurt. And they start relating to it and they go, "Oh my gosh, I have done that. It could have been me."
Kids who have their own blogs on social networking sites like myspace.com can be irresistible targets for predators. Teens need to know that more than just their friends are reading what they post. Just ask this guy:
He's "uncommonsens2" you met him earlier in our investigation. He's here after making a date for sex with a 13 year old girl. And he's brought along alcohol -- a six pack of Smirnoff Ice.
There are of course numerous software programs available that alert parents when inappropriate information is shared on their computer. Some software will even alert the parent via e-mail on a Blackberry or at work. But at the end of the day it really comes down to reminding kids that there are a lot of creeps in cyberspace.
But if you're having trouble talking to your kids about all this, I-SAFE offers a step-by-step program to help. To access it, just go to I-SAFE.org.
Schroeder: It informs them, gives them tips that they could actually be thinking about themselves, and then actually helps them in terms of how they would apply this in terms of their own real life or even within their own house.