We're at it again, catching potential online sex predators in the act of attempting to meet young girls.
We're in a new state, in a new part of the country -- southwestern Kentucky. What's not new is the men's reaction to meeting who they think is a young girl.
We're set up in this six-thousand square foot home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. We've outfitted the house with thirteen hidden cameras and seven are outside, capturing a potential predator as he drives into the development, up our street and into our driveway. Then five cameras inside pick up his every move as he walks in the door.
In the basement are our paid consultants -- members of the online watchdog group Perverted Justice. Its volunteers set up profiles of 12- or 13-year-olds, go into chat rooms, and wait to be contacted. If a man starts chatting, expresses a desire for sex and is willing to meet, the decoy then invites the man over.
For this operation, Perverted Justice has teamed up with the Kentucky attorney general's office and the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation (KBI), as well as local law enforcement.
Frag (Perverted Justice): Most of these guys are going to be coming off 65 in one direction or another.
Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo has worked with Perverted Justice during two prior sting operations without Dateline being present.
Chris Hansen: Were you anxious at all about having Perverted Justice, a civilian group, do the decoy work in these cases?Greg Stumbo: Just the name Perverted Justice sort of raises some red flags.
So Stumbo says his office did a thorough background check on Perverted Justice.
Stumbo: All we saw were positive things. We didn't see anything negative. Law enforcement is not equipped to conduct these types of operations at this point. And so to us it was just a natural fit.
During the first attorney general sting in Louisville about a year ago, seven men were arrested. All were convicted of a felony.
During the second sting last April -- again with Dateline not present –- 11 men arrived at this house in northern Kentucky.
And all 11 were arrested.
One man has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. The other 10 have pleaded guilty. Stumbo says one of those men stands out the most.
He was a teacher.
Greg Stumbo: He was a well-respected citizen in his community. A member of a church. Had a lot of people in the community who supported him, who couldn't believe that he would engage in this type of conduct.
He's 59-year-old James Rauch, a retired elementary school music teacher and a criminal justice professor for a university. He's interrogated by agents from the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation.
That's what he starts off saying but later seems to change his story.
He also admits he invited the decoy to see photos of his genitals from his webcam.
He ends up pleading guilty and is sentenced to 46 months in prison, followed by lifetime supervision.
So what will happen this time when Dateline is present? It seems some potential predators are getting the message. KBI commissioner David James says chat rooms are filled with men afraid to show up.
James: Once they found out that the girl was in Kentucky, that we're not going to come to Kentucky, because they-- that's where they arrest people for doing this.
But as always that doesn't stop everyone.
Walking into our undercover house is 39-year-old John Elliott, a factory worker for a window company. He's driven two-and-a-half hours to meet a girl who told him she was 12 and home alone. It's after one o'clock in the morning.
We've hired this 19-year-old actress Casey to be our decoy. Elliott seems to think our decoy is the 12-year-old virgin he's been chatting with online for the past month. Using a screen name so disturbing we can't broadcast it, he tells the decoy about his fantasy of being with a young girl.
(09/22/07 4:20:44 pm): you were asking me about what I was daydreaming about well that's it you nude and me licking you...
He continues to chat with the decoy about his fixation with giving her oral sex and adds that as he's talking to her, he's "nude" and "thinking bad thoughts."
(09/28/07 4:59:44 pm): I just never thought I would openly tell a young girl that
At one point he tells her his hobby is taking pictures of himself masturbating and then sends the decoy some of those shots. And he doesn't stop there. Later he sends her child pornography -- a photo of a girl engaging in a sex act.
(09/28/07 5:19:35 pm): that girl is young
At one point he seems to fear she might be a "police woman" -- but as you can see that doesn't stop him from showing up.
Decoy: I let him go to the bathroom and when he came out he seemed a little more relaxed. He was a little more comfortable that, you know, "okay, she let me go to the bathroom. We're going to be here awhile."
As the decoy presses him, he stops smiling and seems to get suspicious. She asks him about that photo he sent her of the girl receiving oral sex.
And what about the photos he sent of himself masturbating?
When I ask him about his obscene screen name, he starts to laugh.
As he gets up to leave and makes the long walk to the door, officers are in position ready to arrest him.
He's taken away in an unmarked car and brought to a police station... Where he's booked, photographed and brought in for questioning.
Agent Katherine Reed: Had an interesting night, haven't you?John Elliott: Yeah. Really.Katherine Reed: To say the least.
He is read his rights and Kentucky Bureau of Investigation agent Katherine Reed starts to question him.
Agent Katherine Reed: What brought you here tonight, John?John Elliott: Just fantasy.Agent Katherine Reed: What kind of fantasies?John Elliott: I don't know. To be with young girl. I'm not saying it's right, or anything like that. I don't mean to make it sound that way.Agent Katherine Reed: So, you knew it was wrong--John Elliott: Uh-huh (affirm).Agent Katherine Reed: --when you came here? Elliott: (nods)
Agent Reed gets the man's consent to search his car and retrieve his computer from his home.
John Elliott: (signing) Oh, gosh.
He is then taken to jail and later brought before a judge.
Elliott: I have never been to jail, or anything like this.
And later brought before a judge…
Judge: You were charged with unlawful transaction with a minor less than 16 years of age, first degree, which is a class b felony. Do you understand that charge? Elliot: Yes, sir.
The judge sets his bail amount.
Judge: Your bond will stay at $50,000 cash.
It's day three of our undercover investigation here in Bowling Green, Kentucky -- population 50,000. Our first guest arrives at noon, right on time. Jeremy Todd West, 27, pulls in the driveway and our decoy invites him in.
Calling himself bandit8077, he starts chatting online with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl. After only about 20 minutes he says he'd like to meet. Two days later he asks her this...
Bandit8077 (09/25/07 9:58:27 pm): are u wantin sex when we meet?
The chat goes on for almost a month. It looks like a blossoming romance. Two weeks into their chat he tells her "I would most likely want u to be my future wife." She tells him she wants to finish high school first -- a jarring reminder that this is a chat between a 27-year-old man and a girl who says she's in eighth grade. Two days before he's supposed to meet the girl he starts to get worried.
Bandit8077 (10/18/07 5:27:23 pm): but one thing that keeps runnin thru my mind is if I get caught I seen this Dateline thing where they are bustin guys with cops tryin to have sex with young kids
Apparently it doesn't scare him enough. A public works employee from Tennessee, bandit8077 makes himself at home.
Remember he's been talking online about having sex with a 13-year-old for almost a month.
And just like he's seen on TV, law enforcement is outside waiting to arrest him.
Cops: Sheriff's office. Come on now, come on down. Straighten out hands up. Get down on your face right now. Right now. Hands out, put them behind your back. Do not move.West: Help, please.
He's taken to the local police station, and when questioned by an agent from the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation he sticks to his story.
Jeremy West: I wasn't going to do anything more than just be friends, that was it.
He tells the officer he's worried about being on Dateline.
Ken Gillingham: You're probably going to appear on their show at some time. And part of the reason is they use that as a deterrent for other people to not get their self in this situation.Jeremy West: I should have just stayed away.
In a few minutes, our next potential predator will probably be thinking he too should have stayed away.
Frag (Perverted Justice): OK, his name is Lorne, you're Kayla. He should have condoms, pizza, bracelet and a cam.
Turns out that today's his birthday. He's 37-year-old Lorne Armstrong, a construction worker. He's been chatting with a girl posing as a 13-year-old for more than a month. It's one of the longest chat logs we've ever seen -— 407 pages. Using the screen name lorne_a_20014, he tells her how to masturbate. And then asks her if she wants to see him naked. She agrees and he turns on his webcam. He wants her to look at his penis.
Lorne_a_20014 (09/17/07 11:48:40 pm): would you like to see it up close so you can get a better look at it?lol
After chatting with the decoy posing as a 13-year-old for just six days, he expresses his deep love for her.
Lorne_a_20014 (09/23/07 11:55:25 am): I wish I could marry you right now because I would do it
But he clearly knows what he is doing is wrong, telling her to delete all evidence of their chat log.
Lorne_a_20014 (10/15/07 11:23:46 pm): ok, delete your archives and remember mrs. Kayla marie Armstrong.............I love you more than anythingDecoy: He was so excited to be here, and he came walking in very proud, very excited.
He has nothing further to say and tries to make a quick exit, apparently not knowing what's in store for him outside.
Cops: Sheriff's office! Down! Get down! On the ground, on the ground. Hands behind your back, put your hands behind your back.
He's taken to the local police station where his car is searched.
Cop: In Mr. Armstrong's truck we found some condoms, a variety pack, plus some jewelry.
And later he's interviewed by law enforcement.
Ken Gillingham: I believe you transmitted quite a few photographs.Lorne Armstrong: I'd like an attorney.Ken Gillingham: All right, sir.
Frag: That's him coming at you.Decoy: Yep, I see him. Frag: He would have a cane, he has cerebral palsy. Decoy: He drove up as close as he could to the door so he didn't have to walk as far because he has the cane. I told him to come on inside, and he finally agreed.
Meet Dustin McPhetridge-- he's 26 years old, divorced, suffers from cerebral palsy and collects social security benefits. He says it's SSI.
He's driven five hours to have sex with a girl posing as a 13-year old. As you'll find out, this isn't his first time chatting inappropriately with a minor.
Our decoy Casey starts to feel sorry for him as she watches him struggle to get out of the car, but then remembers what he'd been saying online.
Decoy: When you listen to him talking, he really is no different, he's still wanting to have sex with a little girl.
Using the screen name wrestlingdudeeasttn he asks the girl if he could be her "first at sex."
Wrestlingdudeeasttn (10/06/07 8:12:48 pm): what have u done with a guy
After he tells the decoy about his disability -- he moves on to talking about anal and oral sex. He asks if he can shave her private parts and later makes a rather bizarre request.
wrestlingdudeeasttn (10/13/07 7:11:01 pm): send me a pair of ur panties
He also asks her if he can have a three way with the decoy and her sister, and he repeatedly asks the girl to marry him. When they make a plan to meet, he tells her he'll bring an electric razor.
KBI commissioner David James watches on a monitor as McPhetridge comes into the house.
James: When you first look at him and you see him, and you could say that I felt a little bit sorry for him. A little bit. And then you remember why we're here, you know. Whether he has cerebral palsy or not, he still is there to molest a child. And there's no excuse for molesting a child. I don't care what it is.
He was told online she was 13. And he even referred to her young age several times, wishing she was five years older. And as for all the explicit sex talk...
He says he was chatting with a 14-year-old girl and the girl's mother's boyfriend was a cop who found out about it and wanted to press charges.
But instead of taking responsibility, he tries to blame it all on the decoy.
As he heads for the door, Dustin doesn't seem to know that officers from the Warren County sheriff's office are waiting to arrest him.
Cops: Dustin. Take a step out okay? Take a step out. Dustin: OK. OK. OK.
Because of his disability, officers are careful taking him into custody.
While he's being booked, his car is searched.
Cop: Braun electric razor, some KY lubricant, and ah, he had a digital camera as well.
Then he's brought in for questioning where he admits to bringing a razor and lubricant.
John Dudanski: What were you going to use it for?Dustin McPhetridge: I guess--John Dudanski: Was it in case you had sex with her?Dustin McPhetridge: Yeah, but I was going to try-- not to.John Dudanski: But you would have had sex if you hit it off with her.Dustin McPhetridge: If we got along and I thought it was a meaningful relationship, honestly then, yeah.
Again he says he's not the only one to blame since the girl teased him into coming.
Dustin McPhetridge: She called me today wanting me to come up here.John Dudanski: Uh-huh (affirm). Well you were telling her you were her boyfriend, right? You wanted to marry her.Dustin McPhetridge: After she's 18.John Dudanski: OK.Dustin McPhetridge: If we got along.
And how does he explain the picture he sent?
Dustin McPhetridge: She said she'd never seen a penis before. Why does a girl that age have to see one?Dustin McPhetridge: I don't have no answer for that one.
He admits that he probably possesses child pornography.
Dustin McPhetridge: There's probably a few photos and few videos that I had downloaded.John McPhetridge: Have you ever met anybody in any other chat rooms that you've had sex with?Dustin McPhetridge: Yes.John Dudanski: Any of them underage?Dustin McPhetridge: No, sir.
Later he goes before a judge, where he enters a not guilty plea.
Judge: Your bond will also be $50,000 cash.Dustin McPhetridge: Should I be signed over to the custody of my mother?Judge: No, sir. I'll see you Friday--Dustin McPhetridge: Can she have her vehicle back?Judge: I'll see you Friday at 9 a.m.
During our investigation here in Bowling Green, Kentucky, men drive for miles -- sometimes from other states like Tennessee and Indiana -- to meet a young girl home alone willing to have sex.
Frag: This should be wannastaynfit.
Our next visitor drove more than an hour from Nashville, Tenn., to keep a date for sex with a girl posing as a 13-year-old.
While online using the screen name singlemalestaynfit2000, 41-year-old Richard Watwood not only poses naked on his webcam, he also masturbates for the decoy then encourages her to touch herself. Two days later he shows up at our house.
He thinks the girl's a virgin and home alone for the weekend. By the looks of his chat log, he's here to take her virginity.
He insists he has to go to the bathroom -- and then takes off.
He's taken away in an unmarked car, driven to the local police station and booked. Officers search his car for evidence.
Female cop: It's Viagra, two unmarked types, several condoms.
Later Watwood is brought in for questioning.
Katherine Reed: You understand why you're here?Richard Watwood: Unh-unh (negative).Katherine Reed: OK. You were picked up tonight for traveling to see a minor.
He's read his rights and asked to sign a waiver.
Richard Watwood: I don't want to waive my rights.
Like all the other men you've met so far, he is arraigned before a judge where his bail is set at $50,000 cash.
Judge: I'll enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf this morning. OK. Watwood: Yes, sir.
Meet 34-year old James Fowler. He's been chatting online with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old, calling himself youwantcomeandgetme2005, he wastes no time getting to the point.
Youwantcomeandgetme2005 (10/17/07 9:03:23 pm): I like to pleasure people and be pleasured
Then he turns on his webcam and shows her his private parts. The next day he's walking into our living room.
Decoy: I got him to sit in a chair, and I was just sitting on the edge of my chair.Decoy: And then, out of nowhere, he just stood up and started heading towards me.Decoy: He was definitely headed towards me for something.
He says he drove an hour and forty-two minutes to get here.
He's a convicted sex offender. In 1995 he pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse. He says it was a big misunderstanding, that the girl showed him a fake ID saying she was 18.
He's in no hurry -- he knows what's waiting for him outside.
Cops: Sheriff's office, come on out. Come on. Put your hands up. Palms! Palms! All the way down, all the way down, come on.
Later, at the police station, he's brought into the interrogation room, read his rights and starts answering questions.
James Fowler: I’ve been having pleasure with adults. Pretty much-- good 20 years, you know. There's nothing to that to me, but this was something different. Katherine Reed: Different how?James Fowler: Another experience. Katherine Reed: And what were your intentions when you got here?James Fowler: I was intentions to be pleasurable and pleasure her, but-- I-- I might not have done the actual-- penetration, I just-- I just wanted to see how it went is all, you know?Katherine Reed: OK, now you're going to have to define "pleasurable" for me.James Fowler: Fellatio. Having the lady have pleasure below and likewise, I guess.
He says he lives with his girlfriend and her five-year-old son.
Katherine Reed: Does she know you chat?James Fowler: Yes. But she didn't know about this. I told her it was a couple.Katherine Reed: A couple?James Fowler: Couple, two people, a man and a woman.Katherine Reed: That you were coming to see?James Fowler: Yeah.Katherine Reed: For what?James Fowler: I have pleasure with couples.Katherine Reed: So she knows that you travel to have relationships?
He tells the agent about his prior conviction for sex with a minor and says he got probation. But later he was arrested for not reporting to his probation officer.
Fowler: So I went back and done 37 days in the pen in Delaware.
He also admits to dating a teenager. He says she was 18 but he doesn't remember her name.
Katherine Reed: You lived with this girl and you didn't know her name?James Fowler: I've had a lot of girlfriends.Katherine Reed: Well, I’m sure you have, Travis, but I want to know this one's name. James Fowler: I don't know.James Fowler: I can see her face, but I just-- I can't picture her name.Katherine Reed: How long did she live with you?James Fowler: Couple months.
Like all the other men arrested here in Kentucky, he pleads not guilty.
At 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night, a Perverted Justice decoy starts chatting online with a man from Indiana, which is five-and-a-half hours away from our undercover house in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Decoy: I figured, "Oh, there's no way this guy's going to come."
Calling himself jonraven2000, he tells the decoy who is posing as a 13-year-old that he's 24 and says [I’m] "too old to do anything with u." But that doesn't last long. Soon afterwards, the sex talk begins. He asks the decoy about her last boyfriend.
Jon_raven2000 (10/20/07 9:00:19 pm): did u suck him
The chat continues for another 20 minutes. Then he gets in his car and starts driving. He's known the decoy for less than two hours. During the long drive, he talks to the decoy on the phone and reveals more about himself.
Frag: We just got off the phone with the guy who's claiming to be a cop, we don't know that he is, but he says he carries his gun everywhere with him.
So now we have to assume that jon_raven2000 is a police officer and he's armed.
Decoy: The security people were really great in instructing me as to what to do. And the first and foremost important thing was the safety.
Here comes 24-year-old Michael Patterson. He actually made the five and half hour drive to meet a 13-year-old for sex. Casey has been instructed to make certain the man is unarmed.
Decoy: I got the OK to let him in the house. Decoy: And he just continued to joke about it, and the cops and the security were, you know, still keeping a really strong eye on him because you never know.
He gathers up all his belongings and heads to the door, apparently thinking the worst is over. Because of the possibility that Patterson is armed, an officer acts more quickly than usual calling out to him as soon as he opens the door.
Police: Sheriff's office!Police: Come on out.Police: Come on out.Police: Come out. Come out.
Patterson steps back into the house and an officer shoots him with a Taser gun.
Patterson: Oh, please. Please. Please. Oh. Oh. Please. Oh.
Only one probe stays attached, so the Taser is unable to shock him and drop him to the ground.
(Patterson screams)Police: Don't move.Patterson: Please! Please help me! Dear God. Dear God.
Once Patterson is cuffed, he's brought outside and taken away to the local police station. When officers search his car they find a loaded gun, a spare round of ammunition and handcuffs.
Later he agrees to waive his rights and answer questions.
Ken Gillingham: I’d like to discuss with you why you're here.
Now we hear the truth about the man claiming to be a detective. He tells the agent that he was only on the police force for a few months -- as a trainee -- before he was thrown off.
Michael Patterson: It was a traffic violation. I violated their SOP, their standard operating procedures.
He was out of his jurisdiction in his personal car using police lights.
Michael Patterson: I got some blue and red lights and I put them in my car. It was thrown out of court. So, they dismissed me for that. But, it was thrown out.Ken Gillingham: How long ago was that?Michael Patterson: Just like a month ago.
But according to the local prosecutor, the case wasn't dismissed. He still faces the charge of impersonating a police officer.
That wasn't his only run-in with the law- Patterson charged more than $1,400 on a credit card that had been mistakenly sent to him. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft -- a misdemeanor, served 3 days in jail and received one year probation.
Ken Gillingham: So, you had intentions to at least have oral sex with her?Michael Patterson: Yeah.Ken Gillingham: And how old did she tell you that she was?Michael Patterson: She said going on 14.Michael Patterson: I knew I screwed up talking to a girl underage. I knew-- I’m not stupid.
A total of seven men were arrested here in Bowling Green Kentucky and charged with unlawful transaction with a minor less than 16 years of age, a felony.
Judge: Since this is a felony you are entitled to a preliminary hearing.
They've all pleaded not guilty. That brings the total number of potential predators arrested in a year by the Kentucky attorney general's office to 27.
Greg Stumbo: We know that-- that predators are now saying, "We're not coming to Kentucky. They're watching for us. So Kentucky’s kids are safer.”