Internet Sting Operation

Internet Sting Operation
By: CJ Cassidy

Kennett, MO - Parents, consider yourself warned.That's the message from police after taking down more than a dozen would be online predators.

The two week long investigation took place in Kennett, but suspects hailed from all over Southeast Missouri, Northwest Tennessee, St. Louis, several different towns in Arkansas, even as far away as Fort Leonard Wood.

At first glance investigators don't appear to be doing anything unusual, as they sit at their computers. But a closer look reveals they're all posing as young teenage girls, chatting with would be online predators.

"We had one male show up from Dyersburg, Tennessee with a box of viagra and a box of condoms," Kennett Police Chief Barry Tate says.

But that, Tate says wasn't nearly as shocking as the number of predators they netted; all expecting to have sex with a minor.

Among the fifteen suspects: two prior sex offenders and one Army Staff Sgt.

"He was from Fort Leonard Wood and when he showed up he was driving a federal vehicle with his uniform in the back," Chief Tate says.

S
o how you might ask, did police lure the men off the web?

"W
e rented a house like anybody would
, and
had everything hooked up and used some computers from the police department
," Tate explains.

I
nvestigators put up posters you might see on a teenager's wall to complete the picture
,
and used a female officer as a decoy
, to talk to suspects on the phone.

N
ext, they carefully documented the identities they created
,
to avoid getting confused when talking online.

W
hen the suspects proposed meeting face to face
,
officers simply gave them the address
,
and waited for them to show up.

"S
ome of these people drive four or five hours at a time to have sex with a 13
-
year
-
old girl
.
T
o me and other officers that's amazing we can't comprehend that type of mind frame
," Officer Tim Trowbridge with the Kennett Police Department says.

S

till that won't stop officers from policing not only the highways in their area
,
but now the information superhighway as well..

"I
t's very shocking
.
M
y main concern is to stop it locally let them know we're monitoring what's going on
," Chief Tate says.

T

he fifteen suspects taken into custody face second degree attempted statutory rape charges.

T

hey will appear in court in
D
unklin
C
ounty.

I
nvestigators hope the arrests remind parents just how dangerous it can be to let your kids surf the web without any supervision.