A child sex sting operation by the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has resulted in federal felony charges against five men.
Robert Leazenby, a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation special agent, leads the ICAC task force headquartered in Cheyenne. He told The Associated Press this week that his agency posted advertisements last summer on websites that feature classified personals.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court against one of the defendants, the ICAC team ran one such ad on the Internet advertising site Craigslist under the heading “Traveling Dad.”
“Showing my bros offspring this wonderful state with so much opportunity for learning,” the ad read. “We are from the south and have never been to the west before but her and I are open to meet new people.”
Leazenby said the response was voluminous.
According to court records, ICAC agents assumed different personas, discussing what sex acts they would allow on children in their care. Once the men arrived at the agreed-upon hotel rooms or other locations, they were arrested.
Leazenby said the Wyoming ICAC team decided to post the advertisements because online solicitation of children for sex is a problem throughout the country.
“We wanted to see if there was again a need to do these types of cases. So we threw up an advertisement and we were inundated, so clearly there was a need,” Leazenby said.
Leazenby said the response to the advertisements indicates that child prostitution is occurring in Wyoming.
The FBI announced Tuesday that it had rescued 16 juveniles who had been forced into prostitution in the New York City area in the weeks before the Super Bowl. Officials said the children, some of whom had been reported missing by their families, ranged in age from 13 to 17.
Jim Anderson, prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Cheyenne, has prosecuted online solicitation cases stemming from the ICAC investigations. He said dealing with child trafficking is a priority for the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The fact of the matter is the individual responded to the ad and expressed interest in having sex with a child,” Anderson said.
Anderson encouraged people to report suspicious advertisements to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The ICAC team has four state officers and two federal agents assigned to it. The Joint Appropriations Committee of the Wyoming Legislature last month recommended against Gov. Matt Mead’s request for the state to put up $183,000 for the coming two-year funding cycle to pay for another officer position that had been funded by the federal government.
Leazenby said the team could handle more cases if it got state funding for the extra position. The team has had to turn down some recent requests for help from other law enforcement agencies investigating computer-related crime, he said.
The ICAC investigations resulted in the following federal prosecutions:
— David Michael Faust, 42, of Cheyenne was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson last week to 10 years in prison on a conviction of attempted online solicitation of a minor.
— A federal jury in Casper last week found Jonathan Earl Olaveson, 29, of Gillette guilty of attempted online enticement of a minor. He faces sentencing before U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper in April.
— Christopher Shawn Seymour, 43, of Cheyenne was sentenced by District Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal of Cheyenne last month to 15 years in prison. He was convicted at trial of one count of attempted online enticement of a minor and one count of carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime or violence.
Seymour has filed notice of appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. His attorney, Joe. D. Bustos, of Cheyenne, declined to comment.
— Brendan Dane Schweigart, 28, pleaded guilty in January before Freudenthal to one count of interstate travel with intent to engage in sexual acts with a minor. He’s set for sentencing on April 14 before Freudenthal.
Court records indicate that Schweigart also had been charged with attempted online enticement of a minor but that prosecutors have agreed to drop that charge at sentencing. A spokesman at the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Schweigart is from Pennsylvania.
— John Scott Pinkerton, 58, of Pierce, Colo., was indicted in July on three federal charges: interstate travel with intent to engage in sexual acts with a minor, attempted production of child pornography and attempted online enticement of a minor.
Pinkerton has pleaded not guilty. Court records show he’s scheduled for a change of plea hearing Feb. 20 before Johnson.