HOUSTON — A local undercover operation involving sex, the internet and social media has led to the arrest of 13 adult men, all of whom thought they were hooking up with children.
The undercover cops posed as minors on various online and social media apps in order to chat-up the adults suspected of sexually exploiting children. The men believed they were soliciting sex or sex-related acts.
"Every one of these suspects thought they were meeting a 13 to 15-year-old boy or girl," says Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen. "It doesn't get sicker than that."
This was a more than 30-hour sting operation last month and involved 50 members of law enforcement. The Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force led the initiative in conjunction with the constable`s office and HPD.
"These predators they're out there," says Captain David Angelo with HPD. "They're out there 24 hours a day seven days a week using manipulative techniques to enter your home both physical and virtually."
With the arrest of these 13 men comes proof of at least one thing: internet predators are from all walks of life. A 29-year-old U.S. army captain is among those hauled in. "That drove all the way from Dallas, Texas to come to what he thought was a 13, 14 year old girl that he was meeting," says Rosen.
Charles Cody Waidelich had been serving in the military for seven years at the time of his arrest. Some of the suspected predators are contractors, heavy equipment operators, one works for UPS. Most of the men have been charged with online solicitation of a minor, which is a felony. If convicted, the punishment could be probation, or two to 20 years behind bars.
These suspects range in age from 22 to 45. Certainly old enough to know right from wrong.