Computer Crime Research Center


Computer crime: child abuse

Date: August 03, 2005
By: Terrie Morgan-Besecker

State police received several calls from parents whose children had contact with a reporter charged with soliciting sex from an undercover officer posing as a juvenile, but there’s no evidence at this point that there are additional victims, a trooper said Tuesday.

Trooper Brian Murphy of the state police Computer Crime Task Force is seeking information from persons who dealt with Steve Sembrat either during his tenure as a sports writer for the Times Leader, or through a field hockey club he formed in April.

“I received several calls today, but nothing to indicate there are other victims,” Murphy said Tuesday. “It was just people with concerns. We answered some questions.”

Sembrat, 48, of Edwardsville, was among three persons who were arrested over a two-day period in separate investigations conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children task force in Delaware County, according to Joe Brielmann, an assistant district attorney for the county.

Several hours before Sembrat was taken into custody, officers arrested Louis Jacobs of Blackwood, N.J., after he arrived in Aston, Pa., to meet the same undercover officer with whom Sembrat allegedly communicated. The cases are not related other than they involved the task force.

On Monday, the task force arrested a man from Harrisburg who communicated with another officer working undercover in the unit, Brielmann said. That defendant’s name and details of the case could not be immediately obtained Tuesday.

Under state law, an adult seeking sexual contact with a minor can be charged even if they do not travel to meet a juvenile, Brielmann said.

Sembrat is charged with solicitation to commit statutory sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse as well as several other related offenses. Police said he had communicated with the undercover officer since March and repeatedly told her he wanted to “hog tie” her and have her perform oral sex on him. He remained jailed in a Delaware County prison Tuesday for lack of $250,000 bail.

Lt. Dave Peifer, an investigator with the task force, said cases like Sembrat’s highlight the growing and ever present threat to children on the Internet, particularly the hugely popular “chat rooms” that are offered by virtually every Internet provider.

“There are a lot of kids on the Internet, and unfortunately, there are a lot of people exploiting those children,” Peifer said. “We served a warrant one time on a house where there were 70 to 100 profiles of just kids. . . If they want a kid they will do whatever they have to get one.”

In addition to the sting operations, the task force also investigates cases involving possession or distribution of child pornography and other types of illegal internet communications between adults and children.

The Delaware County task force is among 49 nationwide that are funded in part by grants provided by the United States Department of Justice. There are many similar tasks forces operated by state police departments throughout the nation as well.

Locally, state police in Wyoming are among three barracks that comprise the Computer Crimes Unit. Murphy said the unit is responsible for investigating all types of computer crime, but significant emphasis is placed on child sexual exploitation.

The unit has conducted sting operations similar to the one in Delaware County. In December the unit arrested Todd Issermoyer of Hazleton and Chad Benner of Ranshaw after they arrived in Hanover Township to meet an undercover officer who had posed as a 13-year-old female.

Charles Balogh, crime prevention specialist with the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, has worked extensively to educate children and parents about how to be safe on the Internet.

Balogh said it’s imperative that parents take an active role in monitoring their child’s Internet usage to ensure they’re not visiting inappropriate sites. He’s particularly concerned about chat rooms and blogs, where users often post personal information.

“You would be amazed at the stuff on these blogs. Some are like diaries. They include personal information and photos, not only of the person but of themselves and their friends,” he said. “It’s really scary.”
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2008-11-04 17:18:25 - Our nation needs morals. One nation under... Nathan
2005-08-03 20:58:27 - This artical was very informative and... Brandon
2005-08-03 20:37:32 - Hi, I am a student of Master of Computer... Satyendra Mishra
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