Alleged predator ‘grooms’ sexual target for 3 years

Investigators say incident is case study in Web stalking

The Associated Press

July 25th, 2004 CHICO – In a brick building tucked behind a toy store in
the historic section of downtown sits the National Yo-Yo Museum, where
two dozen children or more gather each Saturday to practice with the
Chico Yo-Yo Club.

It was also a haven for Michael Ishaq, a yo-yo buff who taught local kids
tricks, and a natural place for him to bring a 15-year-old Illinois girl
he allegedly was grooming for sex through an Internet relationship.

The 30-year-old Chico man started his pursuit when the girl was just 12
years old — three years before he persuaded her to fly secretly to
California for an alleged five-day sexual rendezvous last month.

Though they’ve rarely seen an alleged pedophile show so much patience,
investigators said Ishaq’s methods are a virtual case study in how child
molesters work in an Internet age, and carry lessons for parents who want
to protect their kids.

“Three years, I don’t remember anything going that long. But nothing in
this business surprises me,” said Ruben Rodriguez, who has spent 15 years
with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after 20
years in law enforcement.

Ishaq is being held without bail in Sacramento. He has pleaded not guilty
to federal charges of interstate communication with and aiding the
interstate transportation of a child, both with intent to engage in
illegal sexual activity. Both charges carry prison terms of five to 30
years.

Brainwashing process

Federal and local investigators allege he befriended the youngster in an
online chat room, posing as 19-year-old Michael Roshan — his middle
name. Soon he was sending her gifts, then prepaid phone cards so they
could talk without her parents knowing. His e-mails became progressively
more truthful, more demanding and more graphic as he isolated the girl
from her friends and desensitized her to what was to come.

He played to her insecurities, and his own.

Ishaq was born with one leg. His hobby was yo-yos — so much so that he
took the girl with him to the Saturday afternoon club at the museum
housing the world’s largest yo-yo, a 50-inch 256-pound wooden behemoth.

The girl, chubby in childhood, slimmed with maturity and exercise. But
Ishaq allegedly showed her nude Polaroid photographs of heavyset young
women — then assured her he had had sex with girls larger than her. He
took graphic photographs of her, the FBI alleged in affidavits, and put
the photos on his computer.

Dangerous intimacy

Ishaq’s lawyer, Shari Rusk, suggested “there was a genuine friendship
here” from a man who has his own self-esteem issues and to a degree lived
on the same emotional level as his alleged victim. “I’m not a
psychologist … but it does seem that he’s at an emotionally young age,”
Rusk said of her client, who is being psychologically evaluated. “His
friends are 14 to 15 years old.”

The length of Ishaq’s alleged relationship led Dr. Fred Berlin, director
of the National Institute for the Study, Treatment and Prevention of
Sexual Trauma at Johns Hopkins University, to also speculate it could
have begun innocently.”There are some people who fall in love with a
child; the problem is it’s not acceptable,” Berlin said.

Such relationships can quickly cross the line into illegal territory and
lead to danger.

For instance, authorities say Kevin C. Jordan of Mount Vernon, Ohio,
stalked a 15-year-old Wisconsin girl last year after she broke off a
six-week sexual relationship the pair set up on the Internet in 2002.

Terry Drake of Middlebury, Ind., used the Internet to plot a more than
three-week cross-country journey he took last year with a 14-year-old
girl he met at church, authorities say. The pair was eventually found
near the California-Nevada border.

If Ishaq’s relationship began innocently, it wound up graphically sexual,
according to FBI affidavits. He told the girl in e-mails how he hoped to
get her pregnant and the various sexual acts he planned to perform with
her. He sent her a photograph of his genitals, also a pattern for
pedophiles.

Calling himself her one true friend, authorities said he insisted the
girl tell no one of the elaborate plans he made for her to take a train
to Chicago, then transfer by bus and rail to catch a flight to Sacramento
using tickets he provided.

The girl told her parents she was going camping with a friend’s family.
It was only when she missed her flight home from California — and thus
failed to return on time — that her parents and police searched her room
and discovered the truth on her computer.

Tips for parents

The constant attention from an older man is flattering for young women at
a particularly vulnerable time, said Richard Davidson, the FBI special
agent who worked the case. “They feel pretty mature. Their parents are
treating them like they’re little girls, but they feel like they’re
women,” Davidson said. They, like boys who may be equally vulnerable, are
looking for adult role models at a time when there is a natural friction
with their parents.

The Internet has made tech-savvy children more vulnerable, with one in
five children solicited online each year, estimates the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children.

The answer, experts said, is more parental supervision.

Computers should be in a common area, not the child’s room. Parents
should know the child’s screen names, monitor the profiles they post in
chat rooms, know who the child is communicating with by e-mail or on the
telephone.

Another warning sign can be children whose grades slump, who spurn
activities or their friends to spend more time on the computer. “The kid
becomes more withdrawn, more isolated, more dependent on their Internet
buddy,” Davidson said. “If people look, they’ll notice it.”

Copyright © 2004 The Desert Sun

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