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Cyber crimes unit busy putting bad guys away
by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

A program developed by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department less than a year ago has become a success in fighting new-age crime.
The Cyber Crimes Initiative, created on Jan. 1 of this year, employs two full-time detectives, Mark Stephens and Jason Krohne, who investigate crimes of child enticement, identity theft, child pornography, and e-mail scams.

According to Detective Sgt. Tony Avery of the investigations division for the sheriff’s department, the unit was developed after Sheriff Richard Anderson and Captain Frank Hunter realized a need for a unit to address these issues in the county.

"The sheriff and captain realized we needed to take a proactive stance on these issues,” said Avery.

"Our goal is to better serve the citizens of Platte County and up until a year ago we had no special training to address the fastest growing crime in the country, which is identity theft,” continued Avery. “We also recognized that child enticement is a major problem for the children of Platte County.”

According to Avery, to date the Cyber Crimes Unit has made 25 arrests for child exploitation.

Avery stated that of the 25 arrests, 22 cases have been forwarded to U.S. Attorney Todd Graves’ office for prosecution.

"Those cases are what we consider travelers' cases, where the offender travels beyond the state lines of Missouri and Kansas,” said Avery.

As of Tuesday morning, of the 22 cases being prosecuted on the federal level, six offenders have pled guilty.

Avery stated that those individuals agreed to ‘Flat 5,' which is a five year sentence.

According to federal law, those offenders could have received a sentence of 5-30 years with a five year minimum being mandatory.

The remaining three child enticement cases are currently believed to be sitting at the state level awaiting review and prosecution, stated Avery.

At the state level, the offenders can be found guilty of a Class C felony of child enticement which carries with it a 2-7 year prison sentence.

Avery explained the detectives' operation this way:

"The officers enter into chat rooms over internet messaging in an undercover capacity, identifying themselves to be a 13 or 14 year old child. The detectives then wait to be contacted by the offender. Once there’s contact, they then allow the offender to set the pace and tone of the conversation,” explained Avery.

“They (the detectives) set themselves up as bait for these offenders to bite on.”
According to Avery, Missouri statute 566.151 identifies child enticement as: “A person at least 21 years of age or older who commits a crime of enticement of a child if that person persuades, solicits, coaxes, entices or allures, whether by words, actions or through communication via the internet or any electronic communication, any person who is less than 15 years of age for purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with a child.”

Avery also reported that the unit has investigated five identity theft cases, three fraud cases, two child pornography cases, and one e-mail scam.

"A couple of our fraud cases have taken us out of the country,” said Avery. “Platte County investigates those to the largest extent of our ability. Once it takes us outside the boundaries of Platte County and especially the country, we turn the case over to the feds.”



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