Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Carmel on the Case: High-Tech Hunt
The internet has become a playground for pedophiles. And while law enforcement is aggressively targeting online perverts, so is a group of vigilantes. Tonight, in this special assignment report, Carmel Cafiero exposes some of the targets and techniques in this "High-Tech Hunt."
Chat rooms where pedophiles stalk children for sex.
Male reading chat line: "You alone now?"
Female reading chat line: "Yes."
This is how it begins... a 38-year-old man corresponding with what he believes to be a fourteen-year-old girl.
Perverted Justice volunteer: "OK, here we go, someone who wants to play. I've been doing this long enough to know what that means."
But this chat isn't with a fourteen-year-old girl, it's with a grown up man.
Female reading chat line: "What do you mean by play?"
Male reading chat line: "Well, semi XXX rated stuff."
Within minutes the talk turns to sex.
The 38-year-old man ready to pick up the teen... Promising kissing and rubbing and caressing.
Perverted Justice volunteer: "He's trying to be romantic with a 14-year-old. He wants me to kiss him all over."
The internet pretender is a volunteer for Perverted Justice - a web site dedicated to outing would be pedophiles.
He has asked us to conceal his identity.
The website posts pictures and conversations and phone numbers of adults who it says tried to set up sex with children.
Perverted Justice volunteer: "We have to run sort of a virtual neighborhood watch. We have to take care of our own and make sure children are protected."
"Computers may be a window on the world, but they can also be a door into your home. In the last year and a half more than 500 men have been exposed on the site. And in some cases, information from the "hi-tech hunt" has been turned over to law enforcement."
Site Co-Founder Xavier Von Eck: "And we'll have our first conviction within the end of the month."
This man is one of the site's targets.
He says after his phone number was posted - he got harassing phone calls.
Perverted Justice target: "Some of the calls would be people threatening my life, telling me they were going to be waiting for me outside my doorstep."
Von Eck: "I've been contacted by lawyers and we've told them go ahead and sue us and so far they all know they don't have a case."
This Florida man agreed to an interview if we did not show his face.
He claims he didn't take his chat with a 14-year-old girl seriously.
Yet over a two hour period he wrote things like this...
Second male reading chat lines: "I know I am too old for you. But I have to take a chance on an angel... I love to kiss arms and necks all the time. I am a cuddly, feelly type... encouraging you to sneak out and meet could put me in jail."
He also made arrangements to meet her.
Perverted Justice target: "Did I do anything but use politeness and kindness to this person?"
Carmel Cafiero: You're a 35-year-old man talking about sex with a 14-year-old girl - asking her how far she has gone with her boyfriend. You want to nuzzle, you want to cuddle? If you went out you would probably kiss her neck. I mean that's appropriate from a 35-year-old to a 14-year-old?"
Perverted Justice target: "It's chat... Don't you understand!"
Nancy McBride is the executive director of the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children.
She has concerns about the vigilante effort.
Nancy McBride: "I'd much rather have a law enforcement officer doing an undercover investigation on them than somebody outing them so they're just going to move on with a new screen name and go somewhere else and do it."
Lt. Kevin Butler, Broward Sheriff's Office: "Parents should be very concerned..."
Lt. Butler directs an investigative group called Internet Crimes Against Children - ICAC.
He says he commends the effort of Perverted Justice - but also has some concerns.
Lt. Butler: "But we found in our investigations that sometimes when we receive a photo of an individual, it is not always a photo of the person you are talking to."But at Perverted Justice, they say - they're careful to confirm identities and have heard all the excuses before.
And as long as pedophiles continue to go online, Perverted Justice plans to make sure they never know if they're talking to children or vigilantes in disguise.
A recent survey revealed one out of every five teens is sexually solicited on line.For expert advice on how to protect them long onto www.netsmartz.org.
For more information or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE.