21 Internet Predators Arrested in Sting

Attorney General Mike Cox and Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma today announced the arrest of 21 individuals who attempted to engage in sexual activity with children they met on the Internet. The arrests resulted from a joint Internet Child Predator Sting conducted in Kent County from October 17 to 19.

These predators were arrested by Attorney General Agents and Kent County Sheriff Deputies at or near a decoy home in Grand Rapids Township after engaging in explicit Internet chats with undercover agents posing as children.

Virtually all defendants face at least two 20-year felonies: one for Child Sexually Abusive Activity and another for using a computer to engage in that crime. Defendants who sent sexually explicit material online face additional counts. The Attorney General’s office, which will handle the prosecutions, has requested a minimum $50,000 cash bond for each defendant.
An additional round of arrests will follow for individuals who transmitted sexually explicit material, but did not travel to the decoy location.

The defendants from this operation all are males, ranging in age from 20 to 65. A majority of the defendants are from West Michigan, some residing only several miles from the decoy house, while others drove hundreds of miles. Seventeen of the defendants arrested were from Michigan, three were from Indiana, and one from Illinois.

Those from Michigan included two from the city of Wyoming, one from Byron Center, and one from Grand Rapids.

Many defendants carried condoms and some had prior criminal convictions, including domestic violence and home invasion. One reported being an employee for a toy store, while another admitted to kissing his wife goodbye as his two young children were asleep.

Prior to this operation, Cox’s office had already arrested more than 200 Internet predators.
“Internet predators are a dangerous everyday threat to Michigan’s children,” said Cox. “This is a reminder that the Internet allows predators into our homes without even opening a door.”
Sheriff Stelma reminded parents to keep a close watch on their children’s Internet usage.

“This is a great example of law enforcement officials working together to make our community safe,” said Stelma. “It’s important for adults to monitor our children’s Internet activities by providing instruction and establishing rules, such as what kind of sites they can visit, when they can go on line, and how long they can stay there.”

Other partners in the operation included Perverted Justice, a non-profit organization which specializes in identifying online predators, and Investigative Mechanics, Inc., which outfitted the decoy house and neighborhood with state-of-the-art video and audio surveillance equipment.
Citizens can report suspected Internet child predators by calling the Attorney General’s Child and Public Protection Unit at (313) 456-0180. The Attorney General’s office also created the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (Michigan CSI) to teach Internet safety to children and adults. For more information, call (877) 765-8388 or go to http://www.michigan.gov/csi.

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