Because the internet is often used to facilitate sex crimes, law enforcement agencies regularly set up sting operations to catch would-be offenders. Recently, several law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin set up a three-day sting operation that resulted in 17 arrests.
The effort, which was dubbed Operation Black Veil, focused on luring alleged offenders to solicit sex from a minor online. It is considered to be one of the largest and most successful computer sex crimes sting operations in Wisconsin history.
According to news reports, teams of law enforcement officers posted and responded to ads in the “casual encounters” section of Craigslist. When describing themselves to suspects, they would pose as minors; either male or female, depending on the situation. Sometimes, the officers posed as adults willing to sell children for sex.
After the three-day operation ended, the officers were able to arrange meetings with 17 suspects, which then turned into arrests.
Whenever a sting is conducted, officers need to meet a strict set of criteria to make sure that their efforts do not become entrapment. In this case, in order to make an arrest, suspects had to know that they were communicating with a “minor,” show intent to have some type of sexual contact and arrange for some sort of meeting with the “minor.”
According to news reports, the officers posing as minors were very careful to share their made-up ages several times to make sure that suspects knew they were underage. Whenever possible, officers also had to wait for the suspect to request to meet up with them.
It should be noted that during a sting operation, undercover officers do not have to disclose that they are cops, even if asked directly. In this case, several suspects did ask the question and officers were allowed to answer with a lie.
Sting operations can be hectic, especially when they result in a high number of arrests. Even if evidence against defendants seems strong, mistakes can be made. For this and other reasons, anyone facing sex crimes charges should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Source: Green Bay Press Gazette, “Casual Encounters: An inside look at the Internet child sex crime investigation that led to 17 arrests around Wisconsin,” Samantha Hernandez, Mar. 19, 2013