Efforts to Meet Children for Sex Happen at All Hours of the Day - WBAY

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Efforts to Meet Children for Sex Happen at All Hours of the Day

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Sarah Thomsen was the only local TV reporter given unprecedented access to investigators throughout the three-day sting called Operation: Black Veil (see related story). It happened so we could show you what's happening in the virtual world at any given time.

It's one thing for someone to tell you what kind of chats are happening online. It's another to see it for yourself.

Tonight we take you through this operation by the minute to show you how fast children can become victims.

In a back room at the Door County Sheriff's Department, investigators from three Northeast Wisconsin agencies log onto their computers at 8:00 Tuesday morning to begin their statewide Internet Crimes Against Children sting.

Twenty-four minutes later, their first post appears on Craigslist.

"While there mommas away... daughters are ready to play with you."

"Be the first for these little people..." followed by dollar signs for young, younger, and youngest.

Within ten minutes, emails flood their inboxes -- some immediately asking for pictures, others saying they're "very interested."

"Right now we're making contact with potential suspects referencing wanting to have sex with children and adults that are interested in minors," Investigator Jim Valley of the Door County Sheriff's Department said.

By 8:42 A.M. someone flags the post and Craigslist removes it, but it's too late. Eight people have already begun chats with investigators.

By 8:47 A.M., a man in Madison offers his phone number to arrange a time and place to meet.

"So you want to make it happen?" an investigator asks on the phone.

He hangs up when he hears Deputy Troy Montevideo and never meets investigators.

"Those things happen. People rethink their actions, which is a good thing. But we'll just be following up on those types of cases in the future," Valley said.

Investigators are careful to establish age -- between 8 and 15 -- and intentions -- that the children are willing to engage in sex.

Forty-five minutes after their first post, there are a few replies saying the posts are "sick" and "illegal." But those are rare this day.

Investigators are now about an hour-and-a-half into this operation. Craigslist, for the first time, has actually banned their email addresses, so they're creating new ones so they can make more posts.

In the meantime, investigators start responding to ads other people have posted.

"We had one possible Green Bay one," Valley said.

At 10:53 A.M., before most people have eaten lunch, people are asking for naked pictures of kids.

"He's asking me for a naked pic," Montevideo says.

Investigators never send those but do use pictures of undercover officers.

"Troy, you got another one," Valley remarks.

By 11 A.M., the chats reach a new level.

"So the chat started with him approximately a half hour ago, but when we finally decided on a meet spot, he wanted to be there in 15 minutes," Valley explains.

These investigators have people willing to meet to have sex with 15-year-old girls in Green Bay, Appleton, Madison, and Kenosha... and it's 11:30 in the morning.

Suddenly, everything happens at once.

"He wants a picture," one investigator says.

"He might be out looking for her walking, though, because she said she was almost there walking," Montevideo says on his radio.

Authorities make their first arrest in Brown County just four hours into the sting and only 45 minutes after making contact with 26-year-old Matthew Michsch.

"It's always good to know we can at least try to do something to help protect the children," Montevideo says.

For three days, investigators rotate shifts from 8 A.M. to midnight, chatting with more than 500 people all over the country willing to drive here to have sex with kids.

"It's disturbing to me how easy it is to just get online and be able to access some of the stuff that we see. It's very disturbing actually," Sergeant Carl Waterstreet from the Sturgeon Bay Police Department said.

The fastest chat we see comes Thursday night from a 21-year-old De Pere man.

"This guy, two posts, 'I want to meet you,'" Waterstreet says. "Let's do it."

From the first communication to arrest is less than a half hour.

"We'll see a number of arrests out of this operation, but it's only the tip of the iceberg on some of these people that are thinking about it or escalating to a point where an arrest is going to be made," Sheriff Terry Vogel said.

And we see firsthand how fast those arrests happen.

"He says he's at a doctor's appointment. They seem to feel he's stalling," an investigator remarks.

We are allowed to ride with Brown County Sheriff's Department investigators as they set up surveillance and wait for the suspect to arrive.

It's 27-year-old William Ward. He later told investigators he thought he was meeting a man who would bring him a ten-year-old for sex.

After changing meeting times and locations, he arrives shortly after 7 p.m. and is immediately taken into custody.

"Oh, without a doubt, just the fact that we have an individual that's out there looking to purchase sexual gratification from a ten-year-old, there's no doubt in my mind that we made a significant dent by getting the people we did," Sergeant Chris Amraen, Brown County Sheriff's Department, said.

We see these arrests happen at night and in broad daylight in crowded parking lots.

Each time, investigators are not sure what they'll find on the suspect or in their cars.

As we saw, it can be surprising, even to them.

Monday on Action 2 News at Ten, we'll show you just what investigators found in the vehicles of the two men we saw them arrest. As one investigator said, it's enough to "make the hair on the back of your neck raise up."

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