Criminal Justice Student gets A, Perverts Get Off, and Instructor Fails

Todd and I wrote our book for individuals conducting Internet investigations, be they criminal or civil in nature. We made a very conscious effort to include real life cautionary tales of what not to do when conducting online investigations.  One area we stressed concerned online undercover operations and that they were not the same as “role playing” for fun or fantasy. We just heard of a recent real life story involving a major college criminal justice studies (CJS) program. It really shocked us and demonstrates the need for our text in today’s law enforcement training and criminal justice degree programs.

The university mentioned has a respectable CJS undergraduate, which has areas of focus on law enforcement, cyber-defense, information security, terrorism and forensics.  Its graduates go on to obtain careers in law enforcement, intelligence and security officers.  The description could apply to any one of a number of colleges and universities if instructors are following the same kind of in class lab project.  This university’s program has a class focusing on technology and law enforcement, again not unlike numerous other classes in vogue in degree programs around the county.  Many such classes go by names such as cybercrime, Internet, or computer investigations. This particular CJS program class has a hands-on component, which allows undergraduate students to purportedly experience what it is like to actually conduct an undercover online investigation. Yep, we said “undercover online investigation”.   One of the students described the class as follows:

The course is taught by a 10 year plus instructor, experienced in computer security and CJS. The class size is about 30 students and uses a computer lab on the campus. The course is for sophomores and above and has been taught for two or three years.   It is a very popular course on campus, because of this “hands-on” component.  One required exercise in the course is for each student to create a fake e-mail account and Facebook profile of a 13-year old minor and to proceed online and to enter various chat rooms pretending to be a juvenile. The students are advised to pull a picture off the Internet of a minor to complete their profile for this exercise. The exercise occurs over three or four class sessions.  Software is used to record chats and take screen shots of the sessions. Students are then required to submit a “worksheet” of their experiences. The only cautionary directive the instructor gives is if they are sent child pornography they are to report it immediately, in which case the hard drive is “preserved.”

Well, we clearly have some areas of concern about this exercise.  First, none of these undergraduate students are sworn law enforcement officers.  Neither Todd nor myself have ever heard of undergraduate students being required to conduct actual  undercover investigations as part of a course requirement.  Clearly, if something bad happens, the students are woefully unprepared for what follows.  Additionally, because they are not sworn law enforcement officers, they could be criminally and civilly liable for problems that may occur. Then there are also chain of custody issues when something illegal is discovered. They are not trained in how to collect and preserve evidence, which of course our text covers in great detail and goes beyond merely recording chats and taking a few screen shots.  Even Dateline’s to “Catch a Predator”, which had law enforcement involvement and still ran into numerous legal problems. We spent a lot of time in our book discussing policy and the appropriate process for setting up a system and preparing law enforcement officers for online undercover work. There is much more to it than just Googling a name or a website.

One of the most disturbing things about this exercise was the use by the 30 CJS students of REAL minors’ pictures in their profiles, pulled from who knows where on the Internet.  What would the parents of these minors feel like if they knew that their child’s picture from a sporting event or school website was used in this manner? How would you feel if your child’s picture was used to demonstrate how undercover online investigations into sexual exploitation transpire?  Now, how would you feel if we told you there was a way for those perverts to identify and locate your child from those images that were pulled from the Internet? Yeah, we know.  Not good.

It is unclear what happen to these profiles after the exercise ended. It did not appear that these fictitious profiles were deleted. Additionally, the profiles were used for several different class sessions. This means that even if the profiles were deleted, they may still exist as they were probably crawled by a search engine while they were still active. It is tough to get that genie back into the bottle once it is online. So the effect of this exercise may go well extend beyond the timeframe of a single class semester. These profiles were no doubt created to facilitate interaction of a questionable nature with a pervert. The problem is the profiles likely still exist somewhere (anyone look at the Internet Archive lately), including a picture, used without the permission of the parents of minor, waiting for some sex offender to find them.

Again, we noted in our book, investigators have to be extremely careful with using images because there are sites, such as Google Image and Tineye, that can be used to show if that image has appeared elsewhere on the Internet. So taking the image from a profile and running it through one or both of these programs may show where on the Internet it also appeared.  If the image was pulled from say a school website, a person could possibly identify the name of the real minor, the school, and their general location, and not the identity of the CJS student who created the fictitious profile.  No one would want images of loved ones posted on a profile designed to entice pervert until  the Internet runs dry of electrons.

Additionally, the 30 CJS were instructed to collectively violate Facebook’s terms of service agreement for this class exercise.  There have been civil suits filed by several Internet Service Providers for individuals collectively creating fictitious profiles. LinkedIn and Yelp are two such companies that come to mind. Granted in these examples they were used for deceptive practices or to commit fraud, but is exposing an unsuspecting minor to real dangers any better?  It deserves repeating that we discuss these issues in great detail in our book and note that investigators and their agencies must have well thought out policies and procedures dealing with these legal concerns, before undertaking undercover online investigations.

In our example, one CJS student hit the “jackpot” so to speak. One Internet target thought the CJS student was really a 13 year old female and sent the CJS student links to child pornography.  The student, apparently at the professor’s instruction, sent the pervert a “link” so they could capture his IP address (Anonymizing techniques must be taught in another class). This student also received an online invite to meet up in the real world for sex from another individual responding to the CJS students fake profile.  What is incredulous is that the student got an “A” for the assignment.  We don’t even want to know how they identified that the “links” went to actual child pornography. 

Apparently, the rest of the class engaged in chat conversations with numerous individuals who thought they were minors. Frequently, these individuals masturbated on webcams to the students as well. So these perverts “got off” and the CJS students got disgusted. Law enforcement was notified about the child porn links being sent. But this is not going to be an easy case, particularly with the chain of custody concerns presented, not to mention testimony and evidence collection and documentation.

This should never have occurred. These concerns are not mitigated in a college classroom setting, students and teachers do not have an exemption from general legal principles, particularly when they are apparently ignored. Todd and I would both give this instructor an “F” for failing to provide the students with a useful learning environment.  We are confident that anyone reading our book would realize that without the proper structure and policy that this is a big no no. We wrote our current book intending to help prevent these kinds of situations so things like this don’t happen. This is particularly true for in programs that are training future law enforcement officers and investigators.  A copy of our book is on the way to this instructor. Hopefully we can correct his teaching approach to ensure that his students actually are prepared for their future in law enforcement. On that note I left a cigar lit somewhere.

References

Cutler, J. (2013, August 20). Yelp Sues Firm That Sued It for Coercion, Alleging Posting of Fake Favorable Reviews. Bloomberg Law. Retrieved from http://about.bloomberglaw.com/law-reports/yelp-sues-firm-that-sued-it-for-coercion-alleging-posting-of-fake-favorable-reviews/

Gold, M. (2008, June 24). NBC resolves lawsuit over ‘To Catch a Predator’ suicide. latimes.com. Retrieved from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2008/06/nbc-resolves-la.html

Gullo, K. (2014, January 7). LinkedIn Sues Unknown Hackers Over Fake Profiles. Bloomberg Technology. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-07/linkedin-sues-unknown-hackers-over-thousands-of-fake-accounts.html 

 

  

 

 

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Criminal Justice Student gets A, Perverts Get Off, and Instructor Fails

  1. Sure they are being trained on how to properly identify and target child predators on the internet. It even states here that they use Facebook and other minor oriented social networking sites for training. My question is: at what point do they throw this training (that the DOJ spends millions on every year in the trash) and conduct stings on adult websites to entrap innocent men?

    http://www.wkrg.com/story/24369062/sex-sting-backlash

    • In Chapter 10, we discuss U.S. v. Poehlman, 217 F. 3d 692 (Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit 2000) where an appellate court overturned Mark Poehlman’s conviction, which originated as an Internet sting investigation. The Ninth Circuit indicated that examining an entrapment defense requires the following questions be asked: 1) Did government agents induce the defendant to commit the crime; and 2) Was the defendant predisposed to commit the crime? If the answer to the first questions was “yes” a conviction could still be upheld if the answer to the second question was “yes”.

      Going to an adult website is not illegal. Engaging in sexual discussions with consenting adults is also not illegal. Adult websites clearly state that minors are not allowed on the site (although some likely lie and get on the site anyway.) The point is going to an adult only site to find someone interested in having sex with a minor would be like going to a bar (where only adults are suppose to be) to find a minor. Not very productive or likely to develop a case, let alone one not have issues with it. Now there may be discussion areas where family incest is discussed or sharing kids. That stuff is going to get watched. Why, because it shows a “predisposition” to have sex with a minor.

      So, the only law enforcement that doesn’t understand entrapment and goes to sites that are unproductive for catching bad guys are those who do not read our book.

      • I think the general public believes law enforcement is conducting stings on sites where minors (and those looking to seduce them) are expected to be – not adult dating sites. Wouldn’t you normally expect predators to be on gaming sites, internet chat sites, which are not dating sites? Are investigators putting these stings on sites like Eharmony or Match or those sites? That really does seem unproductive. It seems like your book ought to be required reading for Law Enforcement – and Criminal Justice Students, too.

      • “Unproductive for catching BAD guys” is right. Did you know Florida has arrested almost 700 men doing exactly that? Many people recognize this is entrapment. The public has been lied to by law enforcement and they do not realize these men were enticed and tricked so that arrests could be made and press conferences could be held. Look at the stats: over 95% of these men were NOT predisposed to seeking out a minor–and fewer than 4% had CP on their computers. Yet, they were all charged, prosecuted and some already convicted… too many accepted plea deals in fear. Check out http://floridascandal.blogspot.com/. You might find that you can sell a lot of books in the Sunshine State!

  2. Obviously then not one law enforcement within the state of Florida has bothered to read your book. Investigations occurring on social networking sites and multi player gaming where adults and children can interact is a rarity and I have yet to hear about an investigation that occurred on a completely child oriented site. The vast majority, well in excess of 90%, of investigations occur on adult only sites like Craigslist casual encounters, Backpage, Adult Friend Finder, Grinder, DateHookUp and Plenty Of Fish. While trafficking may occur on some of these sites, that isn’t the crime being investigated. Virtually all investigations follow the exact same pattern as Mr. Gennette’s.

    • Well, Emma, since the book just came out you are right. Not a lot of law enforcement or attorneys have gotten the book, let alone read it. There are mistakes made in how investigations occur and that is why we wrote the book. That said law enforcement does do things right and get prosecutions that hold up. I would not hold up Craigslist as a place that doesn’t need a law enforcement’s presence. There have been murders and robberies traced back to postings on Craigslist, not to mention prostitution. The same with many of the other sites. Not all the undercover online investigations are related to child exploitation cases. Law enforcement does investigate other crimes. Our book is to provide guidance to not only the novice but the experienced investigator, including those involved in civil work.

      • Just to clarify, I never said Craigslist should be law enforcement free or that no crime occurs there. I was actually referring to your comments about such adult sites not being very productive or likely to develop cases when the object of the investigation is to locate those predisposed to have sex with a minor. Unfortunately the current template for child exploitation investigations is to only investigate on the type of sites I listed which I believe to be a waste of resources that doesn’t do anything to protect children or find actual child predators.

        Predators go where the prey is and if the prey is children, why is law enforcement hunting child predators in the least likely and least productive places to find them?

  3. I don’t believe the solution is to improve the legality of the undercover sting (though this would be advised) but it is to educate the parents, public, and our children of the dangers on the internet. Being on the internet is just like being out in the open.

  4. Computerpo, we are familiar with Poehlman and the criteria you write about in that case is the subjective entrapment test. However, objective entrapment has nothing to do with predisposition. See Curry v. State, 876 So.2d 29 (Fla. 4th, DCA 2004). It is ok to encourage a criminal to commit a crime but there must exist a reasonable suspicion in order to target the criminal to encourage and/or induce the commission of the crime. Under the objective theory of entrapment, even if the guy was proved to be predisposed, if there was no reasonable suspicion to make him/her a target because of being involved in a crime in need of detection, then even he/she is entitled to dismissal on entrapment as a matter of law. However, in these sting operations (like stated in the news segment by attorney Peter Aiken) hardly any of the men are proven to be predisposed.

    You also wrote about it not being “very productive” and/or not making much sense to go to adult websites to look for child predators but that is indeed the cornerstone of this argument. Going to an adult website is very productive for them to set men up and call them child predators because all they have to do is lie to the public and orchestrate the crime so fully that it appears to support their claims. Law enforcement are doing nothing more than performing a bait and switch and do not have any reasonable suspicion to assume that a crime is taking place when they decide to do a sting. In fact, the Department of Justice has reprimanded numerous ICAC task forces in this state for never responding to the few complaints that they did receive. Statistics prove that these crimes do not typically occur and the few times that they do does not justify the arrest of 40 obviously innocent, un-predisposed men. The issue here is that the stings are not even investigations but fishing trips that catch very few predisposed men. Some law enforcement agencies have even compared these stings to fishing expeditions. This fact alone does nothing but violate due process and freedom of speech to create crime for financial gain. This is also known as objective entrapment, racketeering, fraud, and embezzlement and all are performed by the law enforcement agencies of this state. Using the perfectly legal activity of looking for sex online against these men (which targeting men is also unconstitutional) is also considered inducement. See Poehlman.

    I mentioned freedom of speech so let me explain further. The men being arrested are not child predators and when an undercover officer contacts them during a sting, the officer does not even know that they are not but they do not care. They are just looking for an arrest and, like with the Gennette case, law enforcement are the only ones doing the soliciting, encouraging, and enticing. Therefore, these men are not even committing these crimes under the pure language of the statute so the communications that they have should be protected speech. See John Chrisotpher Lo v. Texas, No. PD-1560-12, (Court of Appeals, October 30, 2013). Furthermore, the Supreme Court holds the right to think freely because speech is the begging of thought and that just because someone says he or she is a minor on the Internet does not make him or her a minor. See Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997). These law enforcement officers know what is being talked about on these adult sites and it has nothing to do with sex with children but they choose to use it to their advantage. They are unconstitutionally, incorrectly, and illegally assuming that just because someone continues on a conversation with them that they are a worthy target even though they know that the men do not even know they will be corresponding with a purported minor because the ads do not mention anything about a minor. This assumption is only made because of the financial incentive to create crime.
    If a book is going to be written then it most certainly should be about the truth behind these Internet stings. It does not matter that your book just came out because the Department of Justice already wrote standardized procedures that have been codified into federal law that summarily state that law enforcement cannot test the will of law abiding citizens with promiscuous teens desperate to engage in sex with random middle-aged men. See People v. Aguirre, No. G045009 (CA 4th DCA, April 5, 2012). Therefore, because they are violating these procedures, they are also violating federal law when performing these entrapment schemes. See Title 42, United States Code, Chapter 154, Subchapter 1. I am most certainly interested in helping to write the book I speak of. Also, all of the cases that I mention plus many more can be found here:

    http://floridascandal.blogspot.com/p/case-law-links.html .

    The Florida Scandal blog has a lot of useful and eye opening information proving these alleged child solicitation stings are illegal. There are many more issues involving double jeopardy and illegally insufficient charges that I have not even been able to get into yet. Our other website is http://governingus.com/groups/florida-scandal/ and we would like you to join. We also have a Facebook page called Florida Scandal. I am really hoping to speak with you personally since we have much to talk about.

  5. I look forward to reading your book and sharing it with the appropriate people concerned with investigating child exploitation. It seems to me with the increase in human trafficking, and child sex slavery taking place in Florida, law enforcement would be in sites like Craigslist, BackPage, POF and others seeking those who post ultimately OFFERING a “younger female” not virtue testing men who think they are involved in someone’s sex fantasy on an ADULT site. Sending photos of a 26 year old woman splayed on a bed, holding up a written invitation– with her wedding rings showing–and then telling the younger man (22) “no really, she’s 14…. why would we lie?” just to make an arrest is truly perverted justice. Of course, Florida style.

  6. Computerpo,
    I would like for you to read this comment and from your professional law enforcement experience, assess and evaluate if these are valid violations of the federally mandated ICAC Operational and Investigative Standards that the States conducting internet sex stings must follow. I can as well email you the Operational Plan for this sex sting but I have addressed the violations below per para and line.
    Here is a list of ICAC Standards and Operational Plan violations that occurred in one of the Florida Sex Sting this past year.
    Here is a detailed listing of ICAC Program Operational and Investigative Standards that have been violated during the conduct of this internet sex sting. These standards coupled with the Operational Plan are the guidelines and directives to how these sex stings will be designed, established and conducted. Addressed in this comment are illegal egregious techniques and procedures used by the team and especially the undercover agent to successfully entice, induced, lure, and entrap individuals.
    1. On page 4, 1. Oversight, para 1.1, of the ICAC Standards, it states that Each ICAC agency shall have supervisory systems and procedures that shall provide for observation, documentation, and periodic review of ICAC activity.
    – This was not the case in this Operation due to the fact that the Supervisor, FDLE Special Agent XXXXX, of Det (Undercover Agent) XXXXX, did not supervise or manage the conduct of Det XXXXX. During this operation, he was as well fully involved in the operation as a chatter (see other cases in this operation where he was a chatter) and as per Det XXXXX’s deposition, she only talked to him when she had a traveler to validate a meeting location.
    – Secondly, Page 6, 3. Training, 3.1 of the ICAC Standards, states – All professionals and administrative personnel responsibilities associated with ICAC operations shall be required to read and comply with the Standards. This was not the case where the Supervisor ensured that Det XXXX had read the ICAC Standards as well as the Operational Plan. As stated during Det XXXX, she did not even receive a copy of either one of them either. No ICAC or Operational Plan briefing was conducted for this operation at any time by the Task Force Commander or Supervisor.
    – Thirdly, Page 7, 4. Case Management, 4.1.2 states Supervisors are responsible for determining investigative priorities and selecting cases for investigation. This did not occur since the Supervisor was busy being a chatter and never truly reviewed the chat to provide guidance. Instead, Supervisor just agreed with the UC agent and agreed to a meeting location.
    – Fourth, Page 8, 4.3, para 4.3.1 states: Carefully managed undercover operations conducted by well-trained officers are among the most effective techniques available to law enforcement for addressing ICAC offenses. This standards/rule was not followed by the Supervisor, Special Agent XXXXX since he was fully engaged as a Chatter in the operation. Det XXXXX was left alone unsupervised which led to numerous other ICAC violations that will be addressed below.
    – Fifth, Page 8, 4.3, para 4.3.2 states: Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that ICAC investigators receive a copy of the Standards. This did not occur as Det XXXXX stated in her deposition that she did not receive any standards or operational plan briefings or anything prior to the conduct of the operation.
    – Sixth, Page 8, 4.3, para 4.3.3 states: ICAC investigations shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the principles of law and due process. Since Det XXXXX was not properly briefed on this operation on the ICAC standards or operational plan, she did not have an understanding of the full operation that addressed and highlighted these standards which would give her an understanding of the principles of law and due process.
    – Seventh, Page 9, 4.3, para 4.3.4 b. states ICAC personnel shall not electronally upload, transmit, or forward any contraband. Para 4.3.4.c further states: Other than images or videos of individuals, age 18 or over, which have provided their informed written consent, and at the time consent was given were employed by the criminal justice agency, not actual human images or videos shall be utilized in an investigation. These standards were violated by Det XXXXX when she transmitted 2 pictures (1 fully clothed and the other in a bikini) of a supposed 14 year old girl which she confirmed in her emails. In her deposition she stated that the pictures were of Deputy XXXXX when she was 15 or 16 years old but she was not sure and did not know that she should NOT transmit pictures of minors.
    – Eight, Page 9, 4.3, para 4.3.4.c states: Absent prosecutorial input to the contrary, during online dialogue, undercover officers should allow the investigative target to set the tone, pace, and subject matter of the online conversation. Image transfer shall be initiated by the target. Numerous violations of this standards by Det XXXXX occurred when during the chats, she established the tone, pace, and subject . She violated this standard as follows:
    a. Illegally and knowingly placed an ad in Craigslist that violated Craigslist Terms of Use (TOU). In her deposition, she stated that she did not read the TOU and accepted them without reading them. I don’t believe that that is factual due to the fact that she knew that the ad that she had placed in the Women For Men (WFM) section would be flagged and removed by Craigslist as she stated in her deposition. This proves that she knowingly placed this add to entice, trap and luring an individual. Ad was flagged and removed by Craigslist and she was emailed this information and why it was flagged. This was a start of seeking to seduce, lure, and entice an individual. The ad was posted there for the purpose of soliciting individuals.
    b. As stated in our Motion to Dismiss, Det Payne continued to established the tone and pace as she stated during the chat, “I have my own home and would rather host here”. She further violated ICAC standards by stating, “I will send a picture of her in the next email.” The defendant never asked for a name of the minor or a picture. Defendant had only asked for a picture of Det XXXXX, and not of the daughter. This he had done twice during the chat. The image transfer of the daughter was initiated by Det XXXXX.

    2. On page 9, 4.5, para 4.5.1 it states: ICAC equipment will be reserved for the exclusive use of agency and/or designated ICAC personnel. When possible, undercover equipment and online accounts shall be purchased covertly. No personally owned equipment shall be used in ICAC investigations and all software shall be properly acquired and licensed. Det XXXXX violated this standard as she stated in her deposition that she brought her own computer.
    This completes defining the egregious violations of the ICAC rules which all support the unprofessional conduct and execution of this sex sting and clearly addresses the individual violations of the Supervisor and the unsupervised, Chatter, Det XXXXX who was allowed to continue during the operation without any direction or guidance.

    Here are violations of the OPERATIONAL PLAN.

    1. First, Page 6, Operational Overview, Para 1, Line 5, states; All Chatters will utilize their own laptops and will use the Callyo telephone program if needed. This is a violation of the ICAC Standards.

    2. Second, Page 7, Operational Overview, Para 5, Line 1, states; The Chatter who conducted the chat will brief the Case Detective on the details, provide him or her with the chat log and will also observe the interview to ensure nothing is missed. Det XXXXX was not available or present at the interview and therefore, could not observe any of the interview.

    3. Third, Page 9, Chat Supervisor, states; The undercover house will be staffed by XXXXXXXXXXXXX who will be responsible for the tactical operation of chats and ecommence advertisements. The Chat Supervisor will manage de-confliction, triage and assignment of leads from chatters to analysts. The Chat Supervisors will oversee all chats to ensure the chatters adhere to accepted investigatory standards. Special Agent (FDLE) XXXXX, the Chat Supervisor, was not supervising his Chatters as has been mentioned many times already since he was busy being a Chatter himself. There is no way that he could oversee all the chats and ensure the chatters were adhering to the accepted ICAC Investigative Standards. Det XXXXX was on her own working the chats without any supervision or direction. The Chat Supervisor as well did not approve the Craigslist advertisement as directed in the operational plan (ecommerce advertisements) and confirmed by the Det XXXX during her deposition.

    4. Fourth, Page 11, Chatters, states; The target house will be staffed by chatters and a chat supervisor. All chatters must adhere to operational and investigative standards. This would be very difficult for Det XXXXX to comply with since she was not given, as per her comments in her deposition, a copy of the operational plan and ICAC Standards, nor briefed on the documents and operation.

    I do hope that your book covers such violations and addresses in detail the ICAC Operational and Investigative Standards which many law enforcement officers are violating from the Task Force Commander to the Chatters and on.

  7. I agree with Emma but with a twist. Law enforcement needc to concentrate their efforts where children are at and not where the most “turned on” guys are (i.e craigslist, backpage). Placing ads on already sexually charged ADULT site immediately sets the tone of the conversation to come. This is what law enforcement does and they are NOT suppose to set the tone. The Fact is, Law enforcement themselves have turned into predators in order to get the arrest numbers and the funding from the federal government. There are mountains of proof out there. In a local case here in Panama City Florida, The Tallahassee PD did a sting in Leon county. The Person that lives in Panama City answered an ADULT ad on the Adult section of Craigslist where it clearly states you must be 18 years of age and graphic material can be discussed. After he answer the ad and had a short conversation with the Undercover officer, the UC did a bait and switch and said they were 15 years old. A short while after that the person in Panama City broke off communications on his own. he did not send any graphic and he barely mentioned anything sexual. 10 days later the Tallahassee PD officer drove 2 hours outside of his jurisdiction without permission from the BAY county sheriff to arrest the person on a warrant. While doing that he also broke federal law (Posse Comitatus Act) by asking the military hrep investigate, detain, interrogate the person. Per Federal Law the Military CANNOT assist in a civil criminal matter. and the Police officer violated the federal law just by asking for assistance.

    As you can see in this instance the Police officer is the predator. The person has a right to end all conversations and the police officer went to extremes to arrrest and charge the person. The person is still awaiting trial after 27 months of hell. He lost his military job and can not find a stable job anywhere due to the charge on his record and his name was smeared all over the new statewide.

    Emma Asked an Excellent question which no one seems to have an answer for. why is law enforcement hunting child predators in the least likely and least productive places to find them? or another way to as: Why would a child Predator Surf Adult Websites in order to pick up children? This makes it very hard to prove predisposition in a court of law.

    • Hello Prince and everyone that has commented here about Florida and child predator investigations,

      Our book is not focused on child predator investigations. The books intent is to provide investigators, both law enforcement and civil, new to Internet investigations with a foundation of concepts that will provide them with the tools necessary to complete their investigations. We discuss in our book at great length a variety of topics from understanding what the Internet is to development of policy. The book does not focus on a particular type of crime to investigate and covers not only United States law but includes a discussion about European and Asian investigative concerns. There are many types of crimes being committed on the Internet and child predators are just one that law enforcement has to contend with in their response to Intent crime. We have tried to provide a broad base of information to the reader to bring a better understanding of proper enforcement activities when investigating crimes on the Internet. Thanks for all the comments.

  8. Oh I see, you won’t post any more comments because you know that there is not a problem with internet child predators except the few that are caught every couple of years. You are ok with law enforcement setting up innocent men in stings because it helps to sell your very truthful book that has nothing to do with how the stings are actually done. Pitty.

  9. I support the requirement to do the internet sex sting but they need to be planned, coordinated, and executed legally with fully qualified LEOs that are properly trained and using the right networking sites where the real predators are looking for minors. Many of these stings are too focused at getting the numbers to justify the DoJ ICAC $$$$ grants that they are getting. Numbers/stats/convictions are the only things that matter and that is unethical and should be unconstitutional as LEOs are violating individuals civil rights and managing to sell the great number results to the public and courts. Train them to do them legally and right and going after the real criminals. Not complying with the ICAC Standards and their own Operational Plans should subject them to legal violations and arrest. The day will come where many LEOs will see their cases dismissed, ruled “Not Guilty” (as is happening all over the country) and the defendants will then take them to civil court to pay for the damages that they have wrongly caused on innocent individuals.

    • Villray,

      You are obviously unhappy with your perceived unresolved grievances with law enforcement and how they conduct certain operations on the Internet. Law enforcement does need to be trained and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces spend significant resources doing that on an annual basis. You and I will have to agree to disagree on their motivations for conducting the investigations. Statistics drive a lot in government, but those that download child pornography and those that chat with children (or an undercover law enforcement officer acting as a child) suffer the consequences of their actions. Under the law they are your “real criminals”. So yes the courts will review both sides and support or deny the actions of law enforcement, this is the system we are under in our country. If law enforcement does not handle a case appropriately, civil actions are used to address the issue.

      What Art and I have tried to do in our book is prepare investigators, unfamiliar with Internet investigations, to identify their learning requirements and what good practices could look like. Internet investigations include much more than child predator investigations. Our view is that law enforcement needs to take a more aggressive role in their view of general crimes to include crimes committed on the Internet. The Internet is no longer just an additional resource for information collection, but an extension of everything we do today.

  10. I applaud your efforts and look forward to reading your book. I truly hope it has a positive impact but I too will have to disagree with you on the current motivations for ICAC investigations. When there is incontrovertible proof a task force has ignored priority 1 alerts involving real children for days at a time in favor of other types of investigations, has questionable accounting practices concerning federal grant funds and has to be informed by a foreign law enforcement agency that internet related victimization of child has been occurring literally in its own back yard for an extended period of time then I must question what that particular agency’s true motivations are.

    • I agree with Todd’s comments and thank all of you have posted. I would like to add a few observations of my own as well.

      First there is a lot of comments about ICAC and ICAC investigations. Not all child exploitation cases are run by ICAC. Some law enforcement run there own online investigations, separate and apart from ICAC. We mention ICAC in our book and note that they have procedures, policy in place and provide training to their members on a regular basis. They receive funding from USDOJ. We do mention that these cases can be very complex and encourage law enforcement to get connected with ICAC because their based upon cases/law and run by professionals who know these cases.

      That said, we never said or meant to imply that cases which not run by ICAC or based upon ICAC procedures/policy are flawed to the point that they all need to be thrown out. Each individual case must be judged occurring to the jurisdiction and case law in that jurisdiction. Cases stand or are dismissed based upon the fact patterns present and the case law, not on whether all ICAC procedures were followed. Granted following ICAC procedures, training, puts ones investigation on the right track but in the end it will fall on the fact pattern of the case and the law. We do stress that agencies that do not have policies or procedures in place can run into problems that my jeopardize their cases. Some of these problems are such that the case gets thrown out, some get agencies or officers sued, and some just cause silly issues that law enforcement has to deal with. Having a well thought out policy/procedures provides a safeguard, much like a seat belt. It doesn’t prevent accidents/problems, but it provides some help to make sure one survive if a problem does happen.

      There also seems to be some questioning about why law enforcement would be going to adult sites, gaming sites, etc., and that predators would never use those sites. Let me provide some reasons why they are going to these sites and conducting undercover investigations. One reason is they may have received complaints from individuals (citizens) that the particular site are a problem. Additionally, they may have received a specific complaint about a specific profile.

      Some sites, although adult oriented may be looked at for other reasons, such as prostitution or any number of crimes. Additionally, just because minors are not allowed on these sites does not mean that these investigations are per se unproductive. There are sex offenders who will trawl for parents with children, develop a relationship with the adults, to get access to the child. Remember many of these adults sites will ask about whether the person has kids or if the person minds dating someone with kids. Obviously, dating someone with kids does not mean someone is after the kids. But, frankly there are offenders who will go look for single parents, looking to get access to the kids. This is very scuttle. There are also individuals on these sites that are very aggressively looking for “parents who share” or other similar phrases or are looking for incest type relationships. It really is no much of a stretch for someone interested in incest to also be interested in having sex with minors. I have see more then my share of convicted sex offenders who were interested in incest. In fact, it is one of the risk factors on many sex offender assessment tools.

      Additionally, many of adult sites have been sued for not doing a better job of screening convicted sex offenders from the site. So just because a minor is per se not suppose to be on these sites does not mean there are individuals are actively looking to put themselves in a relationship with someone who has a kid that they can abuse. I have supervised and investigating more than enough individuals who started with an adult and moved on to abuse their child. Sad but true.

      As for gaming sites, sex offender do go to such sites and have victimized real kids. Law enforcement must patrol, investigate, and show a presence on all areas of the Internet. They do the same in the brick and mortal world.

      Our book should be viewed as a seat belt to help law enforcement make sure they do everything possible to avoid problems. However, whether a case stands or not depends upon the fact pattern and case law.

      Someone has noted all the cases that have come out of these FL cases and mentioned a link to numbers. I took a look at this link and I am no math genius but the numbers don’t add up. The link notes out of 697 cases entered, 61% ended in guilty pleas and between 6.5% to 8.5%were dismissed. What happened to the remaining cases 30-32.5%? Did they go to trial and were acquitted or lost? Maybe they are still pending. If so than why they were not mentioned? Almost a third is a bit high just to ignore. Also, the report includes suicide numbers 6, which includes (faked or staged). That doesn’t make sense. Either they really were suicides or they were not. I can’t tell if the cases dismissed included those who committed suicide. These numbers as presented are not a ringing endorsement that “innocent” are being unfairly convicted.

      Our book is not some kind of “get out of jail free card” for individuals who have gotten themselves in trouble. Entrapment is a real defense to criminal liability and law enforcement must make sure they work their cases so that entrapment is not successfully brought up.

      However, my opinion is entrapment is no excuse for getting involved in discussions about having sexual relations with a minor, whatever the reason or where ever it takes place. If you want to fantasize about such nonsense keep it to yourself. Once you take it beyond your mind it is only short stop to acting it out. It also more than also likely will get you into legal trouble. Getting off a criminal case using entrapment as a defense doesn’t make you in “innocent”, is just makes you not guilty provided you can convince a judge or judges.

  11. The numbers were more than likely culled from http://icacarrests.com and you need not worry about being mistaken for a math genius nor is one required for an explanation. There are now 892 entries entered with the following Dispositions:

    Absconded
    Deceased
    Deported
    Dismissed
    Dropped
    Following
    Incompetent
    Not Found
    Open
    Overturned
    Plea
    Prior
    Testified
    Transferred
    Trial

    Entries are further subdivided by Disposed, Awaiting Sentencing, RSO and several other parameters. 697 was the total number of entries at that point in time and apparently your source did not include the number of cases disposed vs. the total number of entries.

    As you should be able to tell now a deceased defendant is not tabulated with dropped or dismissed cases but is counted solely in the Deceased category and such a case would also be marked as Disposed. Unless otherwise indicated all percentages are generated based on Disposed cases. Since your source did not disclose that information to you, it should help explain many discrepancies.

    There are currently 7 deceased defendants (1.15% of 608 Disposed cases). Of those 7, 4 have been definitively confirmed as suicides, 1 was a heart attack, 1 died ‘unexpectedly’ and no other information has been found concerning the 7th. There were 9 deceased defendants but as it turns out two defendants had faked suicides, absconded and were later found again.

    There have been 47 (7.73%) trials which resulted in 38(6.25%) Guilty verdicts and 9(1.48%) Not Guilty verdicts. Interestingly one of the guilty verdicts was for carrying a concealed firearm without a license. That individual was acquitted of all sex offenses. Just in case you were wondering that works out to be 19.15% of cases that went to trial resulting in complete acquittal.

    35(5.76%) cases were voluntarily dropped by the state and an additional 9(1.48%) were dismissed for cause such as a motion to dismiss. Additionally 1 case has been overturned on appeal resulting in another dismissal. There are also 3 cases where the defendant was found incompetent to stand trial. So far that totals up to 57(9.4%) of the cases disposed in which the state was unwilling or unable to obtain any conviction much less a conviction for a sex offense. There is one other case not counted here where a woman was arrested with her boyfriend. The state dropped all of her charges in return for testifying against her boyfriend,

    That brings us to an important question. Are we to assume everyone else arrested was predisposed to engage in sexual activity with a child prior to any contact with law enforcement? Normally evidence of prior victims found during the investigation or the possession of child pornography is used as one way to show that yes those arrested were predisposed to such activity. Some ICAC task forces have gone so far as to claim nearly 100% of all those arrested had prior victims, possessed child pornography or both. Unfortunately Florida ICAC task forces cannot make that claim. Only 15(2.47%) have any evidence of prior victims whatsoever. That number includes defendants that were already RSO’s, had been investigated for a sex offense before regardless of outcome or evidence of prior victims was found during the investigation. Only 9(1.48%) were found to be in possession of child pornography. Of those 24 defendants only 1 has evidence of prior victims and possessed child pornography.

    Where else do we look for predisposition? We could take a look at the sites where the arrests occurred I guess. Did any of the arrests occur on strictly child oriented sites? No. Did any of the arrests occur on multi player gaming sites? No. Did any of the arrests occur in dubious chat rooms? No. Did any of the arrests occur on IRC channels? No. Did any of the arrests occur on underground or dark net sites? No. Did any of the arrests occur on sites known to cater to talk of incest? No. Did any of the arrests occur on the top 10 sites identified by Project Safe Childhood as being at high risk for child predation? Very few. Literally less than a handful on MeetMe Did any of the arrests occur on social networking sites where minors and adults routinely intermingle like Facebook? Very few. I don’t have an exact number for this but it is very low and certainly less than 10. The overwhelming majority of arrests occurred on what are normally considered to be adults only sites such as Craigslist, Backpage, Plenty of Fish and Adult Friend Finder.

    Hmmm. Do the ads and profiles the defendants answered give us any clues? Not so much. Hot Fresh Latina looking for NSA does not indicate a predilection for sex with a minor. Neither does answering an ad clearly labeled with an adult age like 32 that doesn’t mention being a mother or having children or looking for family fun. Even if it did mention family fun this is Florida we’re talking about, a state that proudly hosts the world capital for family fun, Disney World.

    If you question the numbers feel free to visit and run them for yourself. I’ll be more than happy to walk through site navigation and developing queries.

    I’ll leave you with one final statistic and that is the number of sex sting related arrests that did not result in a conviction for a sex offense That number is 175 (28.78%) As you said before, almost a third is a bit too high to ignore.

    • First, the database you mention is a defense oriented site not an official record. Second the numbers still don’t add up. You come up with maybe 8.72 % of cases being found not guilty or dismissed. Only one of these is directly noted as tied to an entrapment defense. The vast majority of cases are ending in guilty pleas or convictions. If they aren’t guilty, not guilty or dismissed, they are in categories such as pending, absconded, or dead, which also does not translate into a valid entrapment defense. The also don’t mean the online investigation was inappropriate. Finally, I am not sure all these cases are ICAC task force cases. Some may be local law enforcement not tied to ICAC. You also appear to be assuming that all undercover cases involve entrapment defenses. That is not the case when law enforcement assumes the online identity of a cooperating witness, such as an adult who was contacted by an offender wishing do engage in unlawful conduct. (We discuss assuming online identities in our book too be the way) The small % that are incompetent to stand trial also does not mean the investigative was not valid. One can’t escape the fact that the majority of cases are ending with convictions, which are apparently withstanding appeals.

      • You are correct it is a defense oriented site however the information entered came directly from the official court records and is easily verified at will by simply visiting the corresponding clerk of court.

        Second the only reason I am here is because I was told you were questioning an alleged discrepancy. I have provided the source of the information and the reason for any perceived discrepancy which was an unfortunate lack of complete information. The missing information has been provided and does and will continue to “add up”. to 100% without any trickery or deceit. That is the sole purpose of the database and I take great pains to ensure the information is as accurate as humanly possible. That’s why there are categories such as absconded or deceased in addition to open, plea or trial. To count such cases in any other way would be disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst.

        I have not and will not make blanket claims such as all cases are evidence of entrapment so please stop assuming things that have never occurred. While I have questioned the predisposition of those arrested that is all that I have done. These cases show a distinct lack of the traditional markers indicating a predilection towards sex with minors. In addition I have never made any statements claiming the vast majority of cases ended in anything other than guilty pleas and convictions so please stop trying to insinuate that I have.

        Finally ALL of the cases in the database are ICAC investigations. Every record is related to the arresting agency and that agency’s task force affiliation. Various memoranda of understanding conclusively demonstrating each agency’s ICAC affiliation is readily available. NONE of the arrests occurred as the result of a complaint or involved a cooperating witness. Every arrest was the result of 41 ICAC sting operations reportedly designed to target predators. This fact too is easily verified and the stings operations are also related to the corresponding defendants in the database.

        Given all the money, resources and alleged training involved these operations should excel at targeting child predators however they appear to miss the mark 25% percent of the time. Just for the record, that percentage represents cases dismissed, dropped, won at trial and pleas to non-sex offenses because I believe an operation claiming to target predators should be able to obtain convictions for sex offenses in all cases.

      • Okay, let’s get this straight.. You accounted for everything, yet your numbers show a high percentage of convictions, either by plea or trial, yet you are upset that these convictions are not for repeat offenders? You believe that someone who expresses by word and deed a willingness to engage in sexual relations with a minor should be given a pass because they never did it before…or at least they never got prosecuted before. You hang your hat on there is no “predilection”, which is part of the prong for entrapment, but then claim your are not arguing the entrapment issue. So law enforcement should only go after the repeat offenders opposed to those just starting in trying to have sex with minors? I am sure the next victim will be happy to hear that because they are the offender’s first that it is no big deal. As a parent and grandparent I want the sex offender caught whether it is the first or tenth. You can make or not make the legal argument for entrapment on an individual basis but you can’t claim that all these first time offenders were entrapped because they weren’t caught before. You can’t jump to no previous predilection without considering their actions in moving forward towards illegal actions.

  12. To quote the ICAC Operational and Investigative Standards:

    “Undercover operations when executed and documented properly, collect virtually unassailable evidence regarding a suspect’s predilection to exploit children.”

    Imagine that, predilection not being used in the context of a legal discussion about entrapment but in the context of running investigations targeting individuals with a predilection towards children. I may hang my hat on that but it is undeniably their hat rack. Another undeniable fact is the state of Florida failed to collect ‘virtually unassailable’ evidence of a predilection to exploit children in at least 25% of the arrests made during these investigations. That’s not a statistic to be proud of. That’s something to be frightened of. It says one of 2 things – Either the investigations are routinely shoddy or they aren’t really targeting predators. Given the lack of evidence pointing to a predilection to exploit children prior to contact with law enforcement and the choice of sites where such investigations are performed that to quote you are “not very likely to develop a case, let alone one not have issues with it” there are at the very least indications they are not effectively targeting predators.

    What I am most upset with is the fact that they are not investigating sites known to be at high risk for child predation activities like gaming sites, child only sites, teen oriented apps like Kik and Snapchat and social networking sites where adults and children intermingle. Those are sites most would consider target rich environments for law enforcement to find child predators but no we’re supposed to believe there aren’t any problems on those sites even though gaming sites happen to be where my own children were routinely approached by predators. Instead we’re supposed to believe the only place child predators hang out is on Craigslist going through hundreds if not thousands of ads hoping against hope to come across a stray child or parents offering up children in some sort of ritual sacrifice. I won’t say such things never happen but it is an exceedingly rare occurrence when compared to other venues. Meanwhile all a predator has to do is avoid Craigslist and his chances of ever being caught drop to almost non-existent. I’m sure the next Snapchat victim and his or her family will rest easier knowing law enforcement spends all its time investigating nothing but adults only sites when looking for child predators.

  13. It appears that it is useless to seek to educate you that many law enforcement officers assigned to these Task Forces from the Task Force leadership to the lowest LE individual are using illegal tactics, resources, and methodologies to make criminals out of law abiding individuals. You truly have pure law enforcement blood running through you. Your efforts that you seek via your book is to ensure that LEO are knowledgeable in conducting legal, fair, constitutionally, and entrapment free internet sex or other stings. I wish you success but I don’t see this since the about will not get them the numbers that they need to keep the ICAC $$$$ coming. Look at the numbers, especially those that accepted pleas with no DOC time who just want their nightmares to end and seek to get on with their lives. You made the statement in one of your replies, ” Getting off a criminal case using entrapment as a defense doesn’t make you in “innocent”, is just makes you not guilty provided you can convince a judge or judges.” which clearly proves that to you, there are no individuals entrapped in these stings that are innocent because law enforcement is always right. Sorry to inform you that they are not and you are at least correct, those that, due to lack of proper knowledge, training, and good supervision, will have to face the civil courts for their actions even though their actions were not intentional. These LEOs you will probably consider “Innocent” even though the courts may judge them guilty. Key overall is that these ICAC Task Forces internet sex stings need to properly and legally planned, coordinated, conducted and executed and not be so designed to continually be the solicitors focused at getting the numbers to validate their effectiveness, usefulness, and ICAC grant $$$$$. Its all about the $$$$ and the overwhelming media support and recognition and the hell with how they got the numbers which most were by soliciting, enticing, luring, and coercing “INNOCENT” individuals who were not on the networking websites looking for an NSA encounter with a minor but rather another adult.

  14. This just wrong on so many levels for a classroom environment involving non-leo students. Wonder who pulled the hard drives from the computers involved and scrubbed them to ensure no child porn was resident on the drives. Wonder how many students went home and replicated this on their personal computers.

  15. Computerpo, there is a case in Florida which the jury found the defendant “Not Guilty” because of illegal arrest which evolved when the defense attorney was addressing the ICAC standards violations and entrapment defense. The parents are suing the Undercover Agent and a selected few other individuals for a lot of money. I believe that it also includes the Sheriff’s Department but not sure. In this case, the UC agent who was then assigned to a supporting Federal agency and supporting the County sex sting, did not know that under the States law, an individual who is of the age of 24 and under can solicit a 17 year old which is then considered consensual sex. The UC Agent testified that the picture that she had received of another agent to use in the sting was a picture of when the Detective was 17 years old. She did not know that the defendant had not done anything illegal since she was not properly knowledgeable or trained about the States laws and as well had not been properly briefed and supervised by the Task Force Commander and Chat Supervisor. Individual was arrested, smeared all over the media and internet, dismissed from his job, had to quit his University studies, etc. etc. etc. The UC Agent is now working for a different Federal agency and neither the old or new agencies are supporting her, neither is the Sheriff’s Department nor the Department of Law Enforcement, etc. She is on her own to battle this civil suit and so are a couple of other individuals.

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