Turning a predator into prey: How Isle of Wight investigators reel in accused online child predators

Isle of Wight

ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. (WAVY) – Two days ago, on Feb. 18, Isle of Wight investigators arrested a man they say wanted to trade naked pictures of children. 

Brad Roberts was picked up at his Portsmouth home and charged with one count of distribution of child pornography and 15 counts of child pornography distribution as second offenses

Robert’s arrest was the latest in a string of similar arrests from the small sheriff’s office.

“There is no stop,” said an undercover Isle of Wight investigator.

Inside the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office, investigators work to solve every case.

“We work hard at protecting our craft,” Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office Investigator Sean Lacy said. “We work hard at being better than the bad guys.”

But there is one crime that deputies are closely eyeing.

“This is just as important, or more important, than any other crime that we investigate,” the undercover investigator said.

Lacy started investigating internet crimes against children a year ago.

“The first cyber tip that I worked involved an arrest of an individual that had access to children, and from that time on I was hooked,” Lacy said.

Lacy, along with his undercover partner, spend their days chatting with potential predators.  Using special training, they go into chat rooms and websites. 

“There are, unfortunately, places on the internet that are made for adults looking to meet kids, and that’s where we usually hang out at,” the undercover said of how they investigate these crimes.

“Sometimes it is within minutes of us entering an area we get our first contact from someone who turns out to be a predator,” Lacy added.

And the conversations don’t end.

“He said ‘Damn sexy, what are you doing right now?'” a man told the undercover in the chat.

“Yup this guy is in the Navy,” said the undercover.  “He is going to have a long road ahead of them.”

Investigators can find themselves in nearly a dozen different chats daily.

“Yeah it can get confusing,” added the undercover.  “You can mess up sometimes.  Trust me.  It has happened.”

Lacy took 10 On Your Side into a chat with a user named Ted Keister. 

“He asked me how old I was, he told me that I looked amazing and that he would really like to see me in a bikini,” Lacy said of comments made by Keister.

“Within 45 minutes of the initial contact we started talking about some graphic stuff,” Lacy said.

Keister was arrested. He is spending the next 15 years behind bars.

“You can go to a homicide scene and you see it and you go home and you forget about it, but when you see what people will do, are willing to do to kids, is probably the hardest stuff to forget about,” the undercover said.

Making an arrest is great, but it has to hold up in court.  Part of that means using specialized equipment to collect as much evidence as possible from phones and computers.

The equipment was donated to them from the Bedford County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the FBI.

“[If] they are chatting with [an] undercover, they come here, but then they also downloaded a large quantity of child exploitative images and then they will be changed accordingly,” the undercover said.

The work has paid off luring men to the county for arrest, such as Yorktown’s Jeffrey Clutters who’s in prison for the next five years for child-related crimes.

Investigators have made 21 arrests in the last two years, resulting in more than 200 charges.  The sheriff’s office has gotten so good, other area departments are reaching out for help.

“I think we are one of the premier agencies that work on this crime in the seven cities,” the undercover said.

Investigators know the job is never ending.  

“The scary thing is that these individuals that we are chatting with — these individuals that reach out to us are not going anywhere,” Lacy said.

Investigators say they’ll continue to hang out and wait until the next potential child predator becomes their prey as law enforcement.

“There is no stop [to] it,” added the undercover. “It seems like you take one off the street and lock somebody up and there are five more to fill their spot. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is.”

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