A Lubbock man is facing 100 years in prison after being accused of Internet sex crimes with children. The man indicted, 23-year-old Paul Mark Burton, was caught by an average citizen nearly 2,000 miles away. NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel explains how a group of vigilantes got together to keep predators away from our kids.
The web site is called "perverted-justice.com" and is run by three people who got fed up with seeing kids targeted by men who were trying to solicit sex. The web site started in Portland, Oregon, and has now gone national after numerous stories aired on Dateline NBC. Tonight, we show you how this group of people have taken their cause to Lubbock.
"I was a chatter myself." That's the voice of Xavier Von Erck. The man who started the "perverted-justice" web site. "You would see actual teens come into the area of the room and males would even go into the main area of the room and would start soliciting them and ask them to come in private. So you got to see the problem up close and decided to do something about it," he says.
Von Erck founded the web site to try and persuade Internet predators away from children, but his efforts led to a much bigger picture.
Dateline NBC has been working on an ongoing series with "perverted-justice.com" where they reel predators in and set them up for a major surprise. In the series, Dateline reporters and cameras wait in the house and confront the predators when they walk in, ready to have sex with minors.
The watchdogs behind "perverted-justice.com" lead predators to believe they are minors, then once the predator strikes with inappropriate conversation, pictures or video, the group sends the evidence to law enforcement.
"A lot of these cases will go on for months and months of conversation which not only makes a better case, but allows the predator to commit more crimes," says Von Erck.
The watchdog group needs to collect enough evidence before going to law enforcement to get a conviction. In Paul Burton's case, he used a web camera, where he allegedly sent obscene video to what he thought was a 13 year old girl. That sting operation by "perverted-justice.com" led authorities straight to Burton's home in south-central Lubbock.
"Burton got on a web cam and Burton broadcast himself in various places undressed to not only our decoy, but did to other minors that weren't decoys," said Von Erck.
The FBI report shows that Burton admitted to having sex chats with up to 30 female minors, and 50 females over 18 years old. He chatted in a teen only room, where he met his match. "We want parents to see what people say and do. They don't get how bad the Internet is until you get a better taste of what we see as well," said Von Erck.
So far, the watchdogs have helped law enforcement get 42 convictions from other men that have had inappropriate chats with minors. That number could grow to 43 if Paul Burton is convicted. Burton has waived his right to a detention hearing and will stay in custody until his trial.
If parents would like to know more about the kind of conversations your kids could meet online, you can go to http://www.perverted-justice.com , but we caution you that the web site has very explicit pictures that might not be appropriate for all ages.
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