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Inside Dateline: Undercover in the fake drug market

Chris Hansen: We formed a company and started trolling the Internet looking for suppliers of counterfeit medicines. Within weeks, companies all over the world began offering us everything from fake Viagra to knock off Tamiflu. Plus, an FDA update after last Sunday's Dateline report.

June 2, 2006 |

A saga of true love or true crime? (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

I came late to the story of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. This drama, forged apparently in tabolid heaven, is now 10 years old; I didn't get started covering it until 2002. But I was delighted when I learned Mary and Vili had agreed to sit down with us (they actually first agreed to sit down with Matt Lauer, but Matt's schedule prevented him from making the trip to Seattle).

In our story, producer Julie Cohen and I ask the question of whether this is a saga of true love--or true crime. It clearly at times has seemed to be both, or sometime one and then the other. How could a 34-year-old teacher [and married mother of four] fall for a 13-year-old student? What kind of connection could they possibly have? Why would he wait for her while she served seven years behind bars for --in the eyes of the law-- raping him? And how could they possibly be happily married today?

You probably think you already know all about this case. You're probably wrong. For instance:

Who made the first move? Both Vili and Mary say he did.

Who began their first kiss? They both say it was Vili.

He was 13. She was 34. So she must have initiated his sexual education. Wrong again.

People like to project their own feelings onto this story. I noticed that when I received a flood of e-mail from our first story about the case. A number of viewers wrote in to bemoan the early sexualization of the boy they referred to as "Billy." Interesting, because it suggests the desire of the reader to see Vili (who is of Samoan ancestry) as a young, innocent boy. He was young at the time; how innocent he was is an open question.

Watch Dateline tonight and make your own judgments: Is this real? Is it love? Is it right? Who made it happen? And what's going to happen next?

Dateline airs Friday, 8 p.m. Click here for more quotes and videos in advance of the show.

June 2, 2006 |   

Julie's story (Jack Cloherty, Dateline producer)

Every once in awhile you come across a story that just breaks your heart.  Julie LeMoult's story is a heart-breaker, but it also is a story that is full of love, and a story that sheds new light on a critical national problem.

But let me begin at the beginning. Before we met Julie, we met her family. Her husband Chris is a vigorous, athletic guy who obviously adored his wife. Their little boy, Logan, is an energetic and charming three year old who loves to dance. Then there are Julie's parents, Bruce and Donna Ellis. They are the kind of Mom and Dad anyone would love to have — kind, loving and fiercely protective of their daughter.  Through them, we met Julie.  The heartbreaking part of this story is that we could only meet Julie through the videotape that her family keeps and treasures. Julie is gone, and her death reverberates through her family's life.

Our Dateline team — Lea Thompson, Yolanda McCutchen, Terrie Verna and myself — sat silently in a darkened edit room and watched the tapes of Julie.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.  There was Julie, dancing like a princess at her wedding.  There were Julie and Chris, heading to the hospital to have Logan.  The excitement and love virtually jump off the screen. Finally, there was Julie, holding baby Logan in her arms and crying tears of joy.

But Julie never made it out of the hospital that day. Less then 24 hours after Logan was born, Julie was declared brain dead. An infection had attacked her brain and ended her life. She would never get to see her son grow up, never have a chance to have another child, never have a chance to grow old with her husband. We wanted to find out how, and why Julie died.  We discovered a complex case, and a shocking national problem.

Julie's family is convinced she was the victim of a hospital-acquired infection, and is suing the hospital. The hospital, in brief, says Julie's brain infection got so bad, so quickly, that she must have had the infection before she came in.  As journalists, we had to take a step back and examine both sides of the story.  We found a complicated set of facts, and medical experts who themselves disagreed about the how and why Julie died.  Julie's case will end up being decided in a court of law. 

The problem of hospital infections is not in dispute, and the problem is so big it's mind-boggling. Think about this: hospital infections kill as may people in this country each year as AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined. In fact, the government's Centers for Disease Control says one in every 20 patients — nearly two million people — will get an infection while they are in the hospital. An estimated 99,000 Americans will die this year from hospital acquired infections.

So there are a lot of heartbreaking stories out there of people who go to the hospital to get well, and instead pick up a serious, sometimes deadly infection.  The thing is, the experts say many of those infections could be prevented by improved hygiene. Dirty hands, uncleaned gowns, filthy equipment, contaminated rooms and lax procedures cause many infections. And what's really scary is that a growing number of these infections are now resistant to antibiotics. If you get an infection like that, you are going to have serious health problems.

when you have to go to the hospital.  That's a good place to start, but patient advocates say more hospitals have to start taking hygiene more seriously, and start testing patients to make sure they have not already developed a drug-resistant infection. Those patients can be isolated so they don't pass along their infection. Some states are now requiring hospitals to disclose their infection rates, so patients will have a chance to check a hospital's performance before they choose where to go for treatment.  if you want to check out what your state is doing about disclosing hospital infection rates.

Julie's family hopes some of these measures will help prevent future tragedies. That's why they wanted to do this story with Dateline. And for our part, we really don't want to have to do more stories like this one. No family should have to go through the heartbreak of needlessly losing a loved one like Julie LeMoult.

The report on hospital infections airs Dateline Sunday, June 4, 7 p.m.


Where are the potential predators now? (Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent)

When we first began investigating potential predators trying to meet teens online, we had no idea it would lead us to where we are today. Nearly 130 men have surfaced in our stories. 98 of them are currently being prosecuted. In tonight’s broadcast we’ll answer one of the most frequently asked questions: What happened to all of those guys?

You may recall that back in September 2004 when we aired our first “To Catch A Predator” story, law enforcement was not aware of what we were doing ahead of time. As a result fewer men faced criminal charges. In fact, only one man seen in that broadcast is being prosecuted as a result. He’s Ryan Hogan, who at the time was a New York City firefighter. As you’ll see tonight, Hogan was the one who exposed himself and masturbated in front of a web cam while chatting online with a decoy who said she was 14. He also drove by our undercover house, but coincidently, as he did, he saw a police car parked nearby and never came in. Even so, what he did was enough to get him fired from the New York City Fire Department and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. Last year Hogan pleaded guilty to using the Internet to transmit obscene material to a person under 16. He faces up to 16 months in prison and must register as a sex offender. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next month.

8:13 p.m.
That so many men would show up in our first investigation was stunning, but in the second story it was who showed up that really surprised us. I once went an entire year purposefully not using the word “shocking” in my stories for Dateline because I thought the word was over-used. But there is no substitute adjective to describe what happened at our undercover house in Fairfax County, VA, outside Washington, DC. On day one of the investigation, the very first man to walk in the door was a rabbi. David Kaye had a good job working for a Jewish organization that brought Jewish kids from across the country to the nation’s capitol to learn about government. But on this day he stood visibly shaken in our kitchen. He had chatted  on line with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy. He had transmitted nude pictures of himself and made a date to meet our decoy. Kaye called us several times saying he did nothing wrong. The day before our story aired in November 2005, he resigned his position. Just this past Friday the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia filed two charges against him:  One for attempting to entice a minor to engage in an illegal sexual activity, and the other for travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual activity.

8:27 p.m.
During our investigations in California, Ohio and Florida, law enforcement planned parallel investigations so that after men arrived at our house and I confronted them, the men could be arrested. This was obviously a challenge for us, but one that ultimately paid off. The online watchdog group Perverted Justice had been contacted by police or sheriff’s deputies in all three states. Just like in our earlier investigations, Perverted-Justice contributors posed as decoys, but starting in California they also provided logs of the chats between potential predators and decoys to investigators. That meant that officers could arrest virtually every man who showed up. 51 in California, 18 in Ohio, and 24 in Florida. Of the 98 men now being prosecuted 5 are convicted sex offenders. 6 of the 98 have either pleaded no contest or guilty. The others who have entered pleas, have pleaded not guilty.

8:45 p.m.
Putting this hour of television together has made me look back closely and reflect on all of these investigations going back almost two years now. I try to use this blog to give you insight and some behind the scenes perspective on what I think is a critically important issue, something I’ve spent a considerable number of hours of my time on.

You need to know, however, that there are a lot of people who have invested the same if not more hours to bring you these stories. My producer Lynn Keller has been absolutely indefatigable. Associate producers Donna Johnson and Loren Burlando have put in innumerable hours and completed tasks that are far removed from their job descriptions. Senior producer Allan Maraynes has, as always, provided critical guidance and creativity. Executive producer David Corvo has given us more leadership and support than we could have ever asked for. The Dateline editors— and there are several— have ingenuously assembled images never before seen on television. Del and Frag and the rest of the Perverted Justice contributors define devotion to a cause. Mitchell Wagenberg and his team have over and over again assembled hidden camera systems and pulled off engineering feats that could make the CIA envious. The lawyers and standards folks, who have to review all of it, including these very words, have been patient and smart. Without all of these people and more, these investigations would not have been possible.

Click to read the full report and the full section on capturing potential Interenet predators.