Thursday, September 9, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Predators on the Prowl
There has been a lot of publicity generated by the arrests of people trying to solicit children for sex on the internet. So you'd think predators would find another place to prowl, but that's not the case. 7's investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has an exclusive look at how law enforcement is making more cases.
WSVN -- They sure don't look like teenagers, but then on the internet anyone can pretend to be anything.
Detective: "Do you want to keep him on the phone or keep him on the chat line?
These officers are members of the internet crimes against children task force. They come from local, county and federal agencies.
They're posing as teens in chat rooms where conversations quickly turn sexual including receiving explicit pictures.
Carmel Cafiero: "And it got graphic?"
Det. Nicole Freely: "Right away. He wanted to send me a revealing picture of himself."
Carmel Cafiero: "And he did so?"
Det. Nicole Freely: "Yes he did."
"He" is 32-year-old Kristopher Scott Brandt from Miami.
Det. Nicole Freely: "He thinks I'm a 15 year old living in Cooper City."
The detective made arrangements for Brandt to meet the girl at a fast food restaurant. We were there as officers were briefed for the take down.
Sgt. Joe Weller: "Drivers do not get outside the car, you are only to be in there for block and that's it."
BSO Sergeant Joe Weller led the team.
Sgt. Joe Weller: "OK Mike start inching up."
And took us along for the arrest. He says Brandt was showing up for one thing and one thing only.
Sgt. Joe Weller: "Clearly to have sex, that's the whole point of the meeting."
Instead, Brandt got a gun in his face.
Det. Freely: "That's him."
And criminal charges that could leave him branded as a sex offender for the rest of his life. According to the arrest affidavit, Brandt's chats were so graphic, we can't repeat them on TV. The report also indicates that on two occasions, he sent pictures of his erect penis.
Carmel Cafiero: "Why would you think its OK to have sex with a 15-year-old? What impact do you think this arrest today is going to have on your future?
That future includes dealing with four felony charges from computer child exploitation to transmission of harmful material. For the task force it was a text book case, but not all investigations go so smoothly.
Sgt. Joe Weller: "Here we go, we got a male, looks like our target."
Take for example, Lazaro Antonio Valdez of Hialeah. He had several chats with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl and he made arrangemetns to meet her several times.
Sgt. Joe Weller: "All right he made the light at Miramar Parkway."
But every time he failed to show up at the meeting point. However, police were able to track him down through his internet address and arrest him.
Sgt. Joe Weller: "Even if they don't travel, once you solicit online to a child and you sexually exploit them online, that's a crime right then and there."
According to the arrest affidavit, Valdez sent a picture of his penis and had sexually explicit chats.
So far, the task force has made 112 arrests this year and you can be certain from a secret location in a darkened room more arrests are in the works.
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