Internet 'romance' ends in arrest

SCOTT GUTIERREZ

THE OLYMPIAN

OLYMPIA — A 42-year-old Seattle man was arrested Wednesday for allegedly
attempting to have sex with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl whom
he met over the Internet and arranged to pick up outside the Westfield
Shoppingtown Capital mall.

The suspect made the 60-mile trip in his minivan and was met by State
Patrol detectives waiting to arrest him. The receptive young girl never
existed; detectives had posed as her online, trading sexually explicit
banter with the suspect as part of a ruse to catch Internet pedophiles.

“He was a little surprised,” said Sgt. John Didion of the State Patrol’s
Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force, which handled the
investigation.

The suspect, Craig D. Olson, was booked into Thurston County Jail on
suspicion of attempted kidnapping, attempted child rape and communication
with a minor for immoral purposes.

He was arrested peacefully just before 1 p.m., when detectives approached
him outside the shopping mall, Didion said.

The investigation proceeded quickly after the suspect made contact with
detectives posing as the girl online Tuesday afternoon. The suspect had
posted a photo of himself on Yahoo and checked the online profile
detectives created for the girl. The suspect also specifically asked her
age, Didion said.

He asked to speak with the girl before arranging to meet her, so a female
detective called him and spoke with him for about 20 minutes to arrange
the meeting. He described what he’d be wearing, which allowed detectives
to identify him, Didion said.

“A lot of times from my experience in this, some of the predators
actually think they had a relationship with the child, and they build a
relationship for a long period of time. Others are predatory and they’re
not interested in a relationship,” Didion said.

Detectives planned to obtain search warrants for the man’s van and home,
he said.

A recent study showed that one in five teens is approached online by a
sexual predator, according to the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children.

The center’s Cybertip line, which fields calls about suspected online
predators, received more than 2,500 tips last year, up 23 percent from
the previous year, Didion said.

“People try to do a good job of protecting their children from predators,
and they assume they’re safe in their own homes, but a lot of times
they’re not with their own computers,” Didion said.

Didion said the task force has a couple of similar investigations under
way. In 2003, the state Legislature closed a loophole in the law to
enhance prosecution of online predators caught in sting operations. It
was passed in response to cases in which suspects were acquitted because
their attorneys were able to argue that they knew they were dealing with
police posing as minors.

The Legislature added to the law to make it illegal for anyone to solicit
sex online from someone whom they think is a minor.

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