Two caught in underage sex sting
By Linda N. Weller
Date: February 12, 2004
Source: The Telegraph
ALTON -- Two men who drove to Alton, allegedly intending to have sex with a 15-year-old "girl" they met online, found they were looking for love in the wrong place just before Valentine’s Day.
Instead of hooking up with a cute teenage girl named "Samantha," the men’s planned noon hour liaisons ended up as surprise encounters with Pfc. Mike Bazzell, information technology officer at the Alton Police Department, Deputy Police Chief Jody O’Guinn and Pfc. Manuel Espinoza.
Police arrested one of the men at 1:07 p.m. Monday and another one about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, both near a gazebo in the secluded, dead-end 2300 block of Pebble Creek Lane near Rosewood Care Center off Humbert Road.
On Tuesday, the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office charged both men with indecent solicitation of a child, a Class 3 felony. Authorities identified them as Steven D. Beaver, 33, of St. Charles, and William G. Perigo Jr., of the first block of Pheasant Trail Drive in Glen Carbon.
Both charges state that the defendants "knowingly solicited a person whom he believed to be a child to perform an act of sexual penetration."
Madison County Circuit Judge Ann Callis set bonds of $25,000 for both men^; they were in Alton City Jail on Tuesday night.
Neither man reportedly had been charged previously with any serious crimes, Bazzell said.
Bazzell said both men e-mailed him through a Yahoo, St. Louis geographic "chat room." The men allegedly were graphic in their conversation, urging "Samantha" to skip school and have sexual intercourse and oral sex with them at her house while her mother was at work.
Beaver allegedly used a live "Web cam" showing himself performing a solo sex act as he typed an instant message to "Samantha."
Both men had e-mailed Bazzell photographs of themselves^; both allegedly lied about their ages.
Neither men offered to pay for the sex, Bazzell said.
The posted photograph of "Samantha" is of a woman now 22, taken when she was 14.
"It is an innocent picture, standing fully clothed, facing the camera to get her picture taken, and nothing seductive," Bazzell said. Her "profile," which gives personal information, only says she likes music, he said.
Bazzell said Perigo had planned to drive to Alton on Monday for the "date" but got nervous about possibly being arrested and balked. The suspect then contacted Bazzell on Tuesday to set up Tuesday’s "encounter," his third message to the police officer.
Bazzell said he set up the secluded location for the "stings," where it would be unlikely for innocent people to get involved or injured. The dead-end street also would be difficult for the suspect to flee, with waiting police cars blocking the exit.
Perigo reportedly had two condoms when arrested^; police also seized a laptop computer from his 2001 Hyundai automobile that he used at his job at SBC in St. Louis. With Perigo’s reported consent, Alton and Glen Carbon police later went to his home in the Iron Mountain Lake subdivision east of Meridian Road, and seized a laptop and desk computer and peripheral equipment.
Beaver also gave consent for Alton and St. Charles police to seize his home computer and equipment, Bazzell said.
The computers are at the Alton Law Enforcement Center, where Bazzell will use government-issued software for his forensics investigation. He said he will look for proof of the messages setting up the "dates," whether they have sexual correspondence with real juveniles, or whether there are digital pictures or movies involving child pornography.
"I can view the files that were deleted, pull up e-mails and previous chats that normally would not be viewable on a standard computer," Bazzell said, particularly those the user deleted.
The men were numbers 12 and 13 of Bazzell’s Internet "sting" of child sexual solicitors since February 2001.
"In the past, most will admit it is a sexual desire they had, and they will keep doing it until they get caught," Bazzell said overall of suspects he has arrested. All of the arrests have been men.
"We never entice them, we never entrap them or contact them^; they contact us," Bazzell said. "We give them every opportunity to back out of the meetings. We only arrest those who are insistent on meeting a child for sex. We make it clear they are talking to a supposed minor."
Bazzell said many of the men he has arrested ask if he is a police officer, which he is not bound to reveal, and express concerns about being arrested.
Despite publicity about Bazzell’s undercover "stings" during the past three years, men continue trying to set up sexual encounters with local underage females via the Internet. Bazzell also works with the Regional Computer Crime Enforcement Group through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and investigates other computer crime, such as identity theft.
Bazzell, though, said word is "out" on the Internet that he is actively pursuing such predators, and messages have dropped dramatically.
"When I started doing the sting three years ago, it would have been easy to get dozens of messages a day," he said. "It appeared to be a huge problem, Now, because of these arrests, we feel we are deterring these activities from happening at all. Most people who see a 15-year-old or younger on the Internet have a suspicion it is a police officer.
"I’ve been in contact with hundreds of men and women who want to have sex with children. It would be impossible for one officer to arrest them all. We tend to go after the worst, the most graphic, the most offensive and the most determined to have sex with a child. We will not arrest someone unless the conversation is graphic to the point that no one would question the intent of the subject.
"Our goal in this is not to make as many arrests as we could, but to deter people from having sex with children in Alton. I feel we have had success with that."
Bazzell said people seeking children for sex now are suspicious of people from neighboring towns who enter the chat rooms, fearing it still is an Alton officer.
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