Operation Black Veil Had to Call in Reinforcements - WBAY

Operation Black Veil Had to Call in Reinforcements

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For the last two days, we've been giving you an exclusive, inside look at "Operation Black Veil," a three-day undercover sting to find Internet child predators in Wisconsin.

Sixteen people have been arrested so far, including eight from Brown, Outagamie, and Shawano  counties. Seven of those men have been charged. Authorities say the men thought they were meeting children for sex.

Sarah Thomsen was granted unprecedented access to investigators throughout the sting.

During Operation Black Veil, we saw investigators so overwhelmed with people they say wanted to meet children for sex, they had to change plans by the hour and enlist the help of more police than they ever expected.

When Operation Black Veil began last Tuesday morning, investigators at command centers in Door and Dane counties responded to Craigslist ads all over the state.

"Yeah, we got four at once," Investigator Jim Valley said.

They expected to be busy.

"We don't know much about our target yet, but he sounds like he wants to meet pretty quick," Chris Neville said.

What they didn't expect: Just how much chatting would go on over the next three days.

"We get five minutes the first day it's up on the Internet. We get numerous hits right off the bat. It leads me to believe these people are just out there looking," Sergeant Chris Amraen from the Brown County Sheriff's Department said.

As the chats continued, arrest teams in seven counties sat waiting and ready to move at a moment's notice.

"They have another one they're working, so we should have another one right behind this," Amraen said.

Then, the unexpected. Even with more than 100 officers across the state working this sting, they need more help.

An investigator on the phone says, "He wants to meet at 7;00, and what we're looking for is for you guys to basically pick him up."

At 5 o'clock Thursday night, a man chatting online tells investigators he wants to meet a 15-year-old for sex in Shawano.

Police there are not part of this undercover operation.

"We need you guys to interview him," the investigator says.

Shawano police initially know nothing about the case, but in a matter of hours they have Jeffrey Vadnais-Speck in custody and now charged.

By the end of Operation Black Vail, investigators enlisted the help of four additional agencies to make arrests in Shawano, Kenosha, and Minocqua, and in Marathon County.

"There's a lot of individuals out there. These are only the ones that might have been online today and made that kind of contact," Captain Dave Konrath, Brown County Sheriff's Department, said.

Sixteen hours a day, for three days straight, we see the manpower it takes to find online predators across Wisconsin.

"That's why we were very fortunate to have the abilities of the agents that were chatting, because a lot of agencies throughout Wisconsin don't have the people designated to do that," Brown County Sheriff John Gossage said.

Investigators expect their next sting to be even bigger.

"I wonder what would happen if we could keep an ad up for 24 hours. I don't think we'd be able to keep up," Amraen said.

Being there through this whole operation, we saw and heard a lot of things most people can't imagine. On Action 2 News at Ten, we look at the emotional toll this kind of investigation has on officers and why, despite that, they are still so passionate to pursue these cases.

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