November 9, 2006
You probably worry about protecting your children when they're out of sight...but how much are you doing to keep them safe in your own home?
In this Special Assignment, we show you never-before-seen evidence of how quickly predators zero in on the search for sex.
WARNING: This story is not suitable for children.
Name a children's toy. From video games to Neopets to Barbies, there's a chat room online for kids to talk about them.
The perfect place for predators to troll.
But they're also where the good guys fight back, hunting on their own to bring them in.
"It's always been a challenge, but now we have technology," says Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt. "Law enforcement needs to be proactive and keep thinking of ways to take care of our children and catch these people."
The people Sheriff Hunt is talking about are men like Sanghoon Lee, Steve Gunter, and Roman Montalvo. All three men were snared in the net Aiken County deputies put out for them online.
Officers don't want to reveal exactly how they do it and where they go, but they caught all these men the same way: in chat rooms, through talk that took a dangerous turn within minutes.
News 12 obtained the transcripts of those chats---evidence used to convict Steve Gunter. He started off with the screen name "utiman4u," saying "I am a dad--age 38 who loves young ladies."
He later stated he's got two young daughters himself, with a 17-year-old girlfriend he's been with since she was 15.
He thought he was chatting with a girl. It turned out she is a he--and he wears a badge.
The chat continued with Gunter offering to come down from Columbia. When he asked "are you a virgin?" the reply was "yep....is that okay?"
"Sure, that's great," he says...and then asks, "Would you let me deflower you? It's up to you."
He then offered to masturbate on a webcam for the girl...and sheriff's deputies caught it on tape.
Within 13 days of their first chat, Gunter was on the front steps of an Aiken County home, thinking he was about to have sex with a young girl. He was arrested there and put in jail.
He's now serving a 15 year sentence on two charges: soliciting a minor for sex and having sex with the young girl he'd been having sex with since she was 15.
Roman Montalvo of Warner Robins has a similar story, beginning his chat as "calrider" and fishing the very same way.
The officer identified himself as a 14-year-old girl from South Carolina.
Montalvo immediately asked for pictures.
Within minutes, he was asking, "Have you ever had sex yet?"
"Not yet," was the reply.
Minutes later, Montalvo was offering to get a hotel room.
Montalvo was a little suspicious, asking, "How do I know your (sic) not going to tell the cops or something?" and later asking, "Are you a cop?"
After that came a half hour of chat too graphic to reproduce here, involving talk of oral and anal sex.
One day later, Montalvo admitted to being nervous, worrying about getting caught. "I'm 26 your (sic) 14."
"Jail time if you tell," he typed.
Later he said, "Maybe you can help with the hotel....gas."
When he showed up to meet for sex, officers recognized him from the pictures he'd sent and arrested him. They say he was carrying six condoms and a bottle of KY jelly in his pants pocket.
He was just sentenced to 10 years, but the judge suspended that sentence and he's now a free man.
If you think it takes weeks or even months to make a case, consider this one Aiken County officers developed in two days.
Sanghoon Lee started chatting with an officer online on a Tuesday. By Thursday night, Lee was in jail on charges of soliciting a minor.
He was deported to Korea and ordered never to come back to South Carolina again.
Finally, here's something most parents will be surprised to find out.
Chances are good that if your child's online, someone's offered them sex.
One in five kids has been solicited for sex online according to the American Medical Association.
If you'd like to learn the warning signs that might indicate your child's taking part in some dangerous chat, click here.