With cyperporn and cybersex ranking as the sensational news items du jour on local stations during November sweeps, KTTV’s “Fox 11 News at 10” has taken the trend a step further by working with a 21-year-old woman posing as a 14-year-old child to ensnare adult sexual predators and pedophiles.
The station’s Fox Undercover investigative unit conducted cybersting operations that led to the arrests of five men, detailed in a three-part station series entitled “Stalking the Stalkers” that premiered Monday night and runs through Wednesday.
KTTV utilized the unnamed woman as bait, having her enter online chat rooms where she was immediately targeted by alleged predators lying in wait. Over the course of several months, four of the men sent the woman — whom they believed to be a young teen — child pornography and arranged meetings. Three sent airline tickets to Chicago, Kansas City and rural Missouri to prompt a get-together.
Caught on camera
The station filmed the online seductions as well as the arrests of the men, who included an attorney, a doctor, a retired U.S. Army officer and an investigator for the Dept. of Labor.
KTTV news director Jose Rios downplayed any appearance of entrapment in the duping of the cyberpredators.
“I’m pretty comfortable with it because it took an act of commission on the part of the men to open the issue,” Rios said. “Our woman never invited their advances. It all stemmed from them. We never sought it out. The police had very strong cases in every instance.”
Rios added that many of the men went to great pains to cover their tracks. The doctor who has been charged sent out a phone card so his phone number would appear on no bills and opened up a post office box to avoid detection via the mail.
“We weren’t expecting the professional group of people whom this attracted,” Rios said.
Rios cautioned, however, that the purpose of the series is not to dissuade people from using the Internet. “It’s about making sure that your children understand that bad things can happen if they let themselves be swayed,” he said.