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49 Arrested in Internet Child-Molesting Sting

Riverside County prosecutor says the results of the operation are 'alarming.'

January 14, 2006|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A sting to capture attempted child molesters netted 49 men in Riverside County, including a U.S. Homeland Security agent and a high school teacher, law enforcement authorities announced Friday.

The arrests, to be aired on a "Dateline NBC" television segment, followed police-monitored Internet chat room sessions with authorities posing as girls and boys.

"The men were very descriptive in what kind of sex acts they were going to do to these children," said Michelle Paradise, a Riverside County deputy district attorney who supervised the sting. "We know this is a prevalent problem, but to see 49 guys come through in three days, that's scary and alarming."

Among those arrested last weekend were Michael Burks, 30, a Homeland Security agent who was formerly a police officer in La Verne, and Walter Babst, a high school math teacher from La Verne, the prosecutor said.

The men were arrested when they arrived at a home in Jurupa Valley, where they thought they would meet the children.

"Some of the guys didn't trust the situation, so they'd call [the decoy] on the phone, and she'd appear at a window, or walk outside the home, to wave them in," Paradise said.

All 49 men face counts of attempted child molestation, and some will be charged with failing to register as sex offenders and distributing child pornography, the prosecutor said.

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