They came from all walks of life: blue collar, white collar, some with long rap sheets—others without even a traffic ticket.
They all had one thing in common—each carried on a sexually explicit chat online with someone who claimed to be a young teen. And, each would be caught by Dateline.
In Virginia, we met a rabbi. In California, a high school teacher. When we began our investigation nearly two years ago we had no idea how many men would be brazen enough to actually enter someone else’s home, where a minor was supposedly alone. Yet it happened again and again.
And we certainly never expected to see naked guys, which we did not once, but twice.
Dateline touched a major nerve—exposing an epidemic of sexual predators in our country. When we first started our investigation we were told by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that one in five children online has been approached by adults looking for sex.
We knew there had been abductions and even murders committed by online predators so we understood how serious the issue could be. But the question was how to go about reporting on this crime and exposing the men who might be inclined to commit it.
Enter a group called Perverted-Justice, a kind of online watchdog organization whose mission is to do what it believes law enforcement doesn’t always have the resources to do—make a full time job of going after internet predators. And they do it by posing as kids online.
At any given moment, one of perverted justices’ 50 volunteers, some who say they were victims themselves of sexual abuse, troll Internet chat rooms usually through AOL and Yahoo, waiting to be approached by a predator.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: Are these chat rooms really that creepy?Frag, Perverted-Justice: Oh, they’re just loaded. I mean you half the time we have to close down windows. There’s so many guys hitting on us, that it’ll crash our machines.
While Perverted-Justice has no authority to arrest the potential predators it identifies, in the last year it has consistently worked with law enforcement in the criminal prosecution of those men.
They do it by providing transcripts of their online chats that can then be used as evidence in court.
But we wanted to take what Perverted-Justice does one step further—to see if these predators would actually leave the world of cyberspace and show up at a house where they were told a child was alone.
For our first investigation, we rented a house in Long island, New York, in a middle class neighborhood.
Werigged the home with hidden cameras—inside and out.
Next, Perverted-Justice decoys all around the country began operating in chat rooms, identifying themselves as a child alone in the house, a child open to the idea of sex even with an adult.
Hansen: Now how explicit do you have to be to lure these guys in. Frag: Well, we don’t really have to lure them. They’ll come to us. We go into these chatrooms, I haven’t said a word to anybody I’m sitting in a room and the IMs start popping up and they start coming on.
And the parade began— one after the other, grown men made dates, and showed up at our undercover house.
Some talked... probably because they thought I was with law enforcement, although I never pretended to be a cop. But none had any idea our hidden cameras were going to expose them before a national audience. When we told them. Most headed for the door.
But in the first investigation, none was more shocking than one man who never made it in the door—although he came awfully close. He’s a man in a position of trust: 24- year-old Ryan Hogan, screenname “ryan4686,” a New York City firefighter.
After spending hours engaged in a sexually explicit chat - sometimes from the firehouse, he makes a plan to come over to have sex with our fourteen year old. Coincidentally, when he drives by, he sees a police car parked near the house and has a possible burst of conscience.
Del: “He went back to saying it was immoral illegal and everything else.”
Still, he goes home, gets comfortable again, and turns on his Web cam, exposes himself and masturbates, all while wearing his New York City firefighter sweatshirt.
And then unbelievably....he says he’s going to come by the house again. He never makes it. So we go looking for him.
Hansen: Hey Ryan, Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC.Hansen: Is this appropriate behavior for a New York City firefighter?Ryan Hogan: No sir it is not.Hansen: For any adult to have this kind of a conversation.Hogan: (overtalk)...for any adult no.Hansen: With somebody says they are a fourteen year old girl home alone.Hogan: No sir it is not.Hansen: Then what are you doing Ryan? Hogan: I made a mistake at the time. I made the judgment call to correct that mistake.Hansen: Is there anything else you want to say about this...Hogan: Yeah, I think ah, people ought to use their heads, people should know better, um, I made a mistake.
Either way, what he did was a crime. And after our story aired, Ryan Hogan was terminated from the New York City Fire Department. Last year, he pleaded guilty to using the internet to transmit obscene material to a person under 16. He faces up to sixteen months in prison and must register as a sex offender. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
New York was our first investigation and in two and a half days - 18 men walked down this driveway to meet someone who said they were a 12, 13, or 14-year-old home alone.
The question was, how many more were men out there? And where?
Would men show up in a different house in a different state to meet a child home alone? You bet they would… and they’d also meet Dateline.
Our second investigation took us to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Our house was rigged with nine hidden cameras—three with views outside, one pointed in the garage and five inside the house.
As the investigation progressed, volunteers from Perverted-Justice, the group dedicated to catching Internet predators were busy as ever chatting online with men like “va_male692005.”
He’s 28, talking to our decoy Erin, who says she’s a 14-year-old. He asks her bra size, if she shaves anything other than her legs and says “there’s just something about a teen body.”
In Virginia, as in many other states, it’s generally a crime to send children sexually explicit material - even if it turns out the recipient is an adult posing as a child. Add using the Internet to entice a child into having sex, and Lt. Jake Jacoby of the Fairfax County Police department says the laws are even tougher.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: So merely by using the Internet to set up a sexual liaison with somebody who’s underage, that’s a felony?”Lt. Jake , Fairfax County Police: “Yes, it is.”
It was during this second investigation that we truly began to see just how vastthe problem of online sexual predators was—the men coming into our house apparently for sex with a minor were from all walks of life.
Joe Wunderler was a military intelligence sergeant interested in bestiality.
Hansen: Why are you so nervous? Joe Wunderler: I just get nervous. Hansen: So you thought it was okay to come here to see a 14-year-old girl.Wunderler: No I didn’t.Hansen: And you say, ‘Would you ever try anal?’ ‘Ouch. That’s—like it could hurt.’ ‘Not if done right. You have to be very gentle with that.’ Quite a Romeo.Wunderler: I’m a lonely guy, what can I say?
Now, Wunderler is doing his talking in court. He pleaded guilty to attempting to entice a minor to have sex. Federal guidelines call for a minimum sentence of five years in prison. He’s due to be sentenced in July. Until then, he remains on “limited” active duty. The army has initiated a separate action to have him removed from service.
Over three days, they came—one after the other. There were so many we had to keep a detailed calendar.
They were men whose professions made them respected members of the community.
Steve Bennof makes his living working with children. He’s a special education teacher looking to meet a 13-year-old boy.
Hansen: What are you doing here?Steve Bennof: Thought I would come see him, but—Hansen: Come see him for what?Bennof: I wanted to meet him.While online our thirteen year old decoy asked the teacher to bring condoms. Did he?Hansen: What does that say about your intent?Bennof: Well I always have them with me but…Hansen: What is a 54-year old man doing, coming to this home to see a 13-year-old boy?Bennof: Well, I obviously I made a big mistake.
After our broadcast, Bennof, after 31 years of teaching, retired.
If you think a teacher trolling for a date with a minor is a breach of trust, how about an emergency room doctor?
Dr. Jeffrey Beck, a 50-year-old, is here to meet a boy who claims to be 14. His online chat is not as sexually explicit as the others. He talks about covering the teen with “hugs and kisses, saying “I want to cuddle you and make you feel safe and loved and cared about.”
He even tried to follow our decoy upstairs.
When I confront the doctor he says he had no intention of having sex with the boy.
Hansen: What’s really going on here?Jeffrey Beck: What’s really going on is I came over to take him out for lunch.
He said he only came here because he felt badly for the teen who was left home alone.
Beck: He was so anxious to have some company when he was left by himself for four days, under the circumstances it sounded neglectful.”Hansen: So you’re the Good Samaritan?Beck: That’s correct.
After our story, Dr. Jeffrey Beck moved to California. His medical license there has been suspended.
That a doctor would show up at this house surprised us, but it would be one of many surprises here just outside Washington D.C.
From David Kaye’s chat with our decoy, the 54 year old, clearly knew what he was doing—
REDBD (chat log)- just you are sooo sooo youngREDBD- ive never been with a young man like youREDBD- but i would like to
Then he walks right into our kitchen.
Hansen: So how can I help you? What are you doing here?David Kaye: Not something good. This isn’t good.Hansen: Not good? That’s kind of an understatement, isn’t it? What do you do for a living?Kaye: I’m a rabbi.
That’s right a rabbi, David Kaye, the man who sent several pornographic pictures of himself is a man of God—he’s been a staff member of an organization that provides educational programs for Jewish high school students.
Hansen: What are you doing in this house trying to meet a 13-year-old boy?Kaye: Okay, look, you know I’m in trouble and I know I’m in trouble. I am not interested in getting any further in trouble.
And when he learns he’s going to appear on national television, it was a scene.
Hansen:Kaye: Oh no.Hansen: You don’t want to - you don’t want to touch anybody—you don’t want.Kaye: You’ve got to stop this.Hansen: Sit down, sit down.Kaye: You don’t have any right—Hansen: You are free to leave at any time.
Rabbi Kaye called us several times claiming he did nothing wrong. He resigned his post with that Jewish organization the day before our story aired. And just this past Friday, six months after our broadcast, the U.S. Attorney’s office filed two charges against David Kaye—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 conduct.
Meanwhile—our investigation in Virginia wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.
Our decoy had asked one man to strip before he came into the house. Police sometimes use this technique to show intent. But we never thought he’d really do it, but he did that and even more.
Hansen: Could you explain yourself?John Kennelly: I’m sorry.Hansen: Why don’t you go ahead and cover up.Kennelly: Certainly.
The man’s name is John Kennelly... he’s 43 and his father says unemployed.
Hansen: So you just woke up this morning and said I’m going to get involved in a Internet conversation with a 14 year old boy . I’m going to go to his house, strip naked and walk in with a twelve pack of beer.Kennelly: No sir.Hansen: What would have happened John if I wasn’t here?Kennelly: I probably would have chickened out sir.
You might think he would have learned his lesson, yet we find him right back online, in a chat room the very next day trying to arrange another meeting with a young teen.
The man who called himself "specialguy29" defies the odds and agrees to meet at a fast food restaurant. But first he confirms the meeting is not about food.
He comes walking from McDonald's.
Hansen: I have been in television for 24 years –Kennelly: I just came to get something to eat.Hansen: ...and I have very seldom been at loss for words.
Afterwards, police raided Kennelly’s apartment and removed his computer. He’s been charged with using a computer to solicit a minor—a felony. His trial is scheduled for later this year.
Even after two investigations, in two states, with millions having seen our broadcasts—men still arrived at Dateline’s door.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: Have you ever seen our stories on computer predators?Daniel Pulido: Yes.Hansen: this is one of them.
Unlike our previous hidden camera operations—where after leaving the house some men were able to make a run for it—this time at our home in Southern California,things would be different. Law enforcement was waiting.
Sgt. Chad Bianco: We were approached by Perverted-Justice to do this large sting.
Bianco, with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and a Perverted-Justice volunteer screenname Frag devised a plan.
Sgt. Chad 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 are staked out in a mobile home parked in the driveway next door. Perverted-Justice hands them the chat logs so they’re prepared.
We’re off and running in California, and it isn’t long before a trucker—an actor -- and a songwriter are confronted by Dateline, and then the cops.
Police officer: You brought Viagra, you brought lubricants? and Cialis?.Stephen Coates: That, that’s all there in the car in case I would have run into someone else not necessarily this girl.
At one point, the crowd of potential predators gets so large, Sgt. Bianco, who has a total of fifteen people working for him, runs out of manpower.
Bianco: I had no one available. We had all of my investigators dealing with people that we had arrested and there was still people coming to the house.
One of the men who came to meet an underage teen is a federal agent working for the department of Homeland Security.
Michael Burks: My father was a police officer. I was a police officer.
And here comes “kinky-man-in corona.” You’ll never guess what he does for a living.
Walter Edward Babst: I’m in education.Hansen: You’re in education?Babst: Yeah.Hansen: A teacher?Babst: Yes.
43-year-old Walter Edward Babst—a high school teacher is a married man with children.
Hansen: what are you doing here?Walter Edward Babst: Getting my ass kicked.Hansen: Getting your ass kicked?Babst: Yeah, I knew it, I knew it was a set-up.Hansen: I need you to sit down.Babst: I need you to just arrest me and take me to jail and execute me.Hansen: I need to talk to you first.
He was arrested and charged with attempting a lewd act with a child under 14. His teaching certificate was suspended.
It’s been a disturbing scene, watching grown men show up after discussing sex with someone posing as a 12 or 13-year-old child.
Hansen: Why don’t you have a seat right there, please.?
One 68-year-old sex offender, Robert Emmet Lyonswas arrested only five months ago for a lewd sex act with a person 15 or younger. Now he’s in our kitchen planning to meet a young boy.
Hansen: So you had intercourse with an underage boy.Robert Lyons: Yes. I made a mistake, didn’t even know he was 15. He told me he was 18.Hansen: How long were you in prison for that offense?Lyons: I wasn’t in prison.Hansen: You got probation?Lyons: Correct.Hansen: How long were you on probation?Lyons: I’m still on probation.Hansen: You’re still on probation now? So you’re on probation for having sex with a boy how old?”Lyons: 15.Hansen: And now you’re here in this house to have sex with a 13 year old boy.Lyons: No, that was not my intention.Hansen: What was your intention?Lyons: Just to talk or whatever.
Now he’ll have to do his talking to deputies. As he walks out dateline’s door, he is arrested and jailed until his trial. He’s charged with attempting a lewd act with a child under 14. But, he’s not the only registered sex offender who showed up at our house.
We found 42-year-old Thomas Bodnar. We found him online chatting with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy. Bodnar said he loved him and asked if he could be his first.
Hansen: How you doing?Thomas Bodnar runs out the door as soon as he sees me....and gets tackled by investigators.And with his head still bleeding from the tackle, Bodnar speaks to the detective at the booking station. It’s not his first arrest.Police: What’d you do your time for? What were you charged with?Bodnar: Uh, I’d rather not say right here...
What he doesn’t want to say is that he molested a child more than 20 years ago—Dazarie Holcomb. Dateline tracked her down and told her about this man from her past.
Dazarie Holcomb: I can’t believe that he’s still out there doing this.
She was only a third grader when she first met Bodnar. He was a volunteer at a Boys club “special friend program.”
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 he worst of the sexual abuse and I was in the middle and then my brother my youngest brother was, got the less of the sexual abuse.
It took months, but Dazarie finally told her mother about the abuse—she went straight to the police. Bodnar was convicted of sodomy and later sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Holcomb: It was a devastation to all of us. We still suffer from what he’s did 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.
Now he faces a new charge of attempting a lewd act with a child under 14. He’ll remain in jail until his trial.
Bodnar was just one of the 50 men arrested in the riverside investigation. The fourregistered sex offenders are behind bars awaiting trial. For the others, their cases are winding their way through the legal system. Already, three men have pleaded guilty.
Daniel Allen who had a prior conviction for stalking, Robert Forte, and Eric Palleson, who ran out the door when we started asking questions quietly entered his guilty plea two weeks ago.
All three will be sentenced in June.
Miles from any major city, down long country roads, past corn fields and cow pastures, Dateline set up this house in Rural Ohio.
But that didn’t stop the parade of men from traveling hours to get to us.
After driving 104 miles, one man appears anxious as he fumbles with his zipper.
And one man, a training manager, drove 112 miles. It was past two in the morning.
Since Perverted-Justice members are the decoys, some have been temporarily deputized. We hired the organization as consultants so we could watch them do what they normally do—go into chat rooms and pose as 12 to 15 year olds home alone and interested in having sex.
In Ohio, we hired a 19-year-old actress to play the role of a young teen home alone.
Using his Web cam, James Rutherford puts on a show for our decoy. He thinks she’s 13.
Now he’s pulling into our driveway in his Red corvette.
Decoy (hidden camera footage): I’ll be right back. Just sit at the bar and I’ll be right there.James Rutherford: Come here.Decoy: No I promise I’ll be right back.Rutherford: No come here.Decoy: I’ll be right there. Just wait you gotta be a little patient.Hansen: Actually I want you to come here.Rutherford: That’s what I thought.
Rutherford says he had a feeling this was a setup, but he admits he was fooled into believing he was talking to a young teen.
Rutherford: I know she’s a kid.Hansen: How old?Rutherford: 13, 14Hansen: 13, and how old are you?Rutherford: Too old for a 13 or 14 year old.Hansen: Too old.
Just like all the men who come through our door in Ohio, the teacher is arrested and transported to the county jail, where he is photographed, fingerprinted, strip searched and thrown in jail. He calls his employer from jail and resigned his position soon after…
Rutherford said that when he goes online he doesn’t specifically look for underage teens— but since our broadcast, we learned Rutherford was chatting with someone else in addition to Perverted-Justice.
Unbeknownst to the teacher, he was on line with a Carmel, Indiana police officer posing as a 13-year-old. At times, Rutherford activated his Web cam and performed sex acts. After seeing our story, the officer was able to identify him. He faces eight new felony counts of child solicitation.
Still, the parade continued...
One man who arrived was a budget analyst for the military.
Decoy: I gotta finish getting changed okay?Kevin Westerbeck: Huh?Decoy: I gotta finish getting changed okay?Westerbeck: I’ll watch you.
47-year-old Kevin Westerbeck is expecting a 13-year-old virgin. Instead he meets me.
Hansen: Hey how are you.Westerbeck: Fine how you doing.Hansen: Why don’t you do me a favor and have a seat right over on that stool please?Westerbeck: Yeah.
Westerbeck like so many others claims he was just coming to talk—and he also brings up a subject we heard quite often in Ohio: religion.
Hansen: What makes you so religious?Westerbeck: Because I have a faith in God.Hansen: Didn’t your faith in God suggest to you that you shouldn’t come over here and hang out with a 13 year old girl after a sexually charged conversation on the Internet?Westerbeck: That’s why I turned around the first time and then she called me. I thought well, I’ll just go over there and say hi and be done with it and go on home.
But, this is not the first time Westerbeck’s been caught setting up a meeting with a young girl on the Web.
Hansen: You pleaded guilty to solicitation of a minor for sex.Westerbeck: It was a plea.Hansen: You pleaded guilty.Westerbeck: Correct.Hansen: And you got sentenced for that plea correct.Westerbeck: That’s correct.Hansen: 11 months.Westerbeck: Correct.
Four days later he’s back in court and a judge rules on his status as a sex offender.
Judge: The court will make a finding that you are a sexual predator.
But it doesn’t end there. Unbelievably, we learn even more about Westerbeck’s criminal past: rape of a little girl—part of his extended family.
Sgt. David Adkins of the New Lebanon, Ohio police department took the report a year and a half ago.
Sgt. David Adkins: It was late at night. There was a thunderstorm. She was scared of the storm, so she went to his room because she wanted the comfort of an adult. And ultimately, he pretty much violated that trust and confidence that he had.
Last month Westerbeck pleaded guilty to raping a child under the age of 13. He was sentenced to ten years in prison.
During our three day investigation— 17 men came to this house to meet a young teen home alone and 17 were arrested, including a 21-year-old paramedic who has a thing for feet, and a family man who online made plans to take the virginity of a 15-year-old.
All 17 men have been charged with attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. All pleaded not guilty, except Alonzo Wade, who plead no contest. He was found guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
No matter where we went we heard the same old story...
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent (hidden camera footage): What are you doing here?Kurt Lemke: Just hanging out.Hansen: Hanging out?
...men planning to meet someone who said they were an underage teen, trying to explain away their behavior.
It was the same in New York, Virginia, California and Ohio.
Alonzo Wade: I don’t know why I did it. I just wanted to party, that’s all.
So when we began our next investigation, this time in Fort Myers, Florida, we were ready for more excuses.
Hansen: What’s up?Thomas Coffen: I’m looking for work and stuff.
He’s just one of the two dozen potential predators who came to our home in Florida.
Ryan McIntosh: I was just coming over here to hang out. And, I felt like I would be more a big brother more than anything. I do know—Hansen: Big, Brother? So, you were coming over to be a mentor?McIntosh: In a way, yes. And, I’m sure you’ve heard that twenty billion times.Hansen: Twenty billion and one counting tonight.
While we’ve met some memorable people throughout our investigation, some of the men in Florida are without question unforgettable.
Hansen: We’re doing a story on adults—David Schumacher: You do look kind of familiar—Hansen: —who try to meet kids on the Internet.Schumacher: All right. Hey man, I don’t want to be on the news, you filming me?Hansen: We are filming.Schumacher: I don’t want to be on the news, dawg.Hansen: Well, it’s a little late for that, dawg. Now if there’s anything else you want to tell me—
He quickly comes up with a disguise, it and as far as interviews go, this may be a television first. He puts his head under his T-shirt and puts a cap on.
Schumacher: All I got to say is there ain’t not going on here dude. Nothing funny going on here.
But the transcripts of his online chats and phone calls were enough for police to charge him with a felony.
And this was not his only encounter with the law. He has a long rap sheet. In 2002, he led police on a high speed chase in a stolen car. He was also convicted of grand theft and trying to sell stolen goods.
And twice he was convicted of battery—the most recent case in January.
Decoy: Hey come on in! What kind of alcohol did you bring?Thornton: Um, I brought absolute Citron. I brought mandarin orange. I brought a shot of jagermeister. Decoy: Wow.
In several cases, the men were asked to bring food, alcohol and condoms. Law enforcement says this helps show intent to solicit a minor.
Hansen: What have we got here?Elias Bailon: A rose.Hansen: What about condoms? Did you bring condoms?Bailon: Yes, sir.Hansen: You did? Why don’t you put those on the table?Bailon: Oh no, I thought I’d carry them with-- (NOISE) thank you.
And as you’ll see, some seem prepared to do things that Fort Myers, Florida Police Chief Hilton Daniels finds quite alarming.
Chief Hilton Daniels: The one that bothered me the most was the guy that showed up with rope and duct tape in his vehicle.Hansen: Did you bring rope with you tonight?Kenneth Forton: I have rope in my car, yes, for my job.Hansen: You talk about using the rope in various sex acts with this 15-year-old girl.
When he leaves the house, he’s arrested. But possibly, the most disturbing man we met was this one:
He’s a 40 year-old married man, Clifford Wallach, screenname Fotophix. He’s here to meet a boy who told him online he was 14.
Del, from Perverted-Justice posing as the boy spoke with Fotophix on the phone.
Del: He said “I like oral, all aspects. I said giving or receiving? He said both. I said cool. He said you up for that? I said sure.”
Holding his son’s hand, the 40-year-old walks into the house.
Because we don’t want to scare the little boy, we immediately tell the man what’s going on.
Hansen: I gotta tell you something. And I’m gonna tell you this straight up right now.Clifford Wallach: What?Hansen: I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC.Wallach: OK.Hansen: We’re doing a story on adults meeting children—Wallach: I was just coming to take someone out to lunch. Hansen: My point is, because your child is here, I think it would be best if you went ahead and left.Wallach: Yeah—I agree. I’m never gonna do this again.
Since the police know the man has his son with him they approach him carefully.A female officer quickly takes the little boy and whisks him away so he doesn’t have to further witness his father’s arrest. The man is taken away in hand cuffs and brought to a transfer station.
The police contact the boy’s mother at work, tell her what’s going on and she comes and gets him.
Meanwhile, the dad is jailed, charged with attempted lewd and lascivious battery and another charge of child abuse. He has pleaded not guilty. He’s now awaiting trial. His 5-year-old son is back home with his mother. The Florida department of children and families is conducting an investigation into the little boy’s welfare.
While this story is upsetting, the story of this next man who online calls himself “crazitrini85” is downright bizarre.
In his chat, he wants to watch our decoy, who said she was 14, perform a sex act on a cat. They discuss it further on the phone and the decoy tells him she’ll try it if he’s willing to strip off all his clothes and walk into her house naked. Remember, police tell us if an individual goes along with something like that it helps prove intent.
Marvin Lakhan: Where are you?Decoy: Wait, just take a seat. Have a cookie, I made them because they’ll go with the cool-whip. It was kind of a little surprise.Hansen: You wanna explain yourself, grab that towel right there please. Wrap it around yourself. And please sit in that stool. What are you doing?Lakhan: Making a mistake.Hansen: Making a mistake? I mean I can only imagine what would’ve been going on in this house had I not been here. Am I wrong to think that?Lakhan: No. You’re not.Hansen: So what’s going to be happening if I’m not here? You’re naked. There’s a 14-year-old girl. You’re chasing a cat around. You’ve got Cool Whip and you want this girl to do some sex act with the cat and then you’ll have sex with her. Is that accurate?Lakhan: Yes.
After he gets himself dressed, he’s arrested and sent to jail. He’s charged with attempted lewd and lascivious battery, using the computer to solicit sex with a minor, and transmitting material harmful to a minor.
The next day he’s brought before a judge and bail is set. Bail came to $50,000. This week, he pleaded not guilty like all the other Florida men who entered pleas so far.
Teri Schroeder, I-Safe: “If you could actually look through cyber 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 is reality and the fact is we’ve become very ignorant to those types of things because we can’t see it.”
And it is what parents often don’t see is that this can have tragic consequences for kids online according to Teri Schroeder who is president of I-Safe, an organization devoted to online safety.
Schroeder: I think parents have known that this has been around. It’s just their attitude is: 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: “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, you know, I’ve 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.
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, you know, 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.