Pedophiles stalk Internet for victims
Web posted at: 5:10 p.m. EDT
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- The Internet, with its vast store of information, is increasingly being used to aid one of society's most disturbing crimes: pedophilia.
"It is definitely a problem that faces parents all over the world," U.S. Customs Agent John Sullivan said.
According to customs agents, so-called on-line pedophiles send out pornographic material over the Internet to children, hoping to lure a youngster into a sexual act.
"It gets disgusting," said Customs Agent Gregg Stin, who tries to track pedophiles on the Internet. He and agent David Sheeks surf the Web, often working undercover as children over computers. The two said they become suspicious when someone offers pictures of celebrities -- often a code word for child pornography.
Their efforts have led to dozens of arrests nationwide.
Among those nabbed are Glenn Wright and school teachers Robert Green and Richard Russell. Agents said the three men used computers to lure children to a certain location, where they would be molested. The men involved were convicted and sentenced for the crimes.
But agents still agonize over those who get away, such as James Latona. Agents said he used a computer to persuade a child to run away from her Maryland home to a Florida hotel. Latona admitted raping the girl.
Part of the problem in tracking the pedophiles is that they are elusive, coy and well-educated.
"They are generally cunning people. They're of average or above-average intelligence, and I think that's what makes them so insidious," said Nancy McBride of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Agents are spreading the word and cautioning parents and children about the threat of on-line pedophiles. At one school, students and their parents who were informed of the hazard said the warning was invaluable.
One child said he went into an on-line chat room when someone "just came on and asked me, 'Can you download pornographic pictures?' I said no."
Another child shared a similar experience. "He wanted to meet me in front of this place and kept asking for my address," the child said. "I wouldn't give it to him."
Despite agents' efforts, they face a long and difficult task in keeping the pedophiles in check.
"When you finally figure you have this one cornered, you look and there's 200 more out there. It keeps blossoming," Sheeks said.
Correspondent Robert Vito contributed to this report.
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