arrested him. He was convicted of using the Internet to arrange a sexual encounter with children, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. 106
The most popular forums for predators to find children are chat rooms, where participants communicate by typing comments to each other. Exchanges in chat rooms are anonymous and no record is made of the communication, making police detection and action almost impossible. In an effort to stop predators before they make contact with children, police in the United States have set up sting operations, in which they pose as fellow predators or as children in order to catch predators. Police agents sign on to chat rooms dedicated to topics of interest to teenagers. The number of predators lurking and prowling in chat rooms for teens is stunning. One FBI agent pretending to be a teenage girl signed on to a chat room as the 23rd participant. All of the other 22 “teenagers” turned out to be adults seeking inappropriate contact with a teenage girl. 107
Georgia Michael Eugene Pharis, 38, father of five children and coach of Little League teams for boys and girls, was apprehended by police after driving hundreds of miles to meet “Wendy,” a 13-year-old girl he had contacted through the Internet. He had sent her child pornography featuring young children. After Internet conversation he contacted her by telephone and pressed her for information on where she lived, when her parents would be home, who would be staying with her and when she would be alone. He said he wanted to come to see her to take pictures and have sex with her. He gave graphic descriptions of the acts. “Wendy” was really a police officer. He was charged with transporting, possessing and distributing child pornography. Previously, he spent 18 months in prison for child molestation. 108
Maryland A computer consultant from Rockville, Maryland arranged to meet a 12-year-old girl in a public library when he was caught. Investigation revealed that he posed as a 16-year-old boy on the Internet and contacted more than 100 girls, between the ages of 10–15. He was convicted in US Federal Court of two counts of crossing state lines to engage in sex with a minor. 109
Massachusetts to Florida Stuart Romm, a former administrative law judge from Brockton, Massachusetts was extradited to Florida to face charges of transmitting child pornography and soliciting sex over the Internet from a young boy, who was actually a Florida sheriff. 110
Over the past few years, Detective James McLaughlin has specialized in stings aimed at predators using chat rooms to contact teenagers. He poses as a teen himself and waits for predators to contact him and initiate their abuse. He said that the first time he entered a chat room pretending to be a 13-year-old girl, he got so many responses that his computer froze. 111
The following is a court record of an encounter between a predator, calling himself “Dano,” and a police officer posing as “Jake,” a 15-year- old boy.
At 5 p.m. Sept. 29, a police officer in New Hampshire, posing as “Jake,” entered an Internet chat room known for transmitting child pornography. An online user by the name of Dano requested to chat with him in a private chat room. The police officer introduced himself as “Jake,” and