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Cyber-exploitation up, but criminals also getting caught

KINGMAN ­- The Internet is like Superman. Both have awesome power than can be used for evil or for good.

People who use the Internet to prey on children represent the evil. The law enforcement agencies involved in the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force represent the good.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office belongs to the Arizona Internet Crimes Task Force.

Detectives with the Sheriff's Office have investigated several cyber-criminals that targeted children in the past year.

Since April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, here's a recap of some of those arrests:

On June 8 a report was made regarding Christopher Jay Wacks, 21 at the time, who was arrested on charges of luring a minor for sexual exploitation, a felony.

The Fort Mohave resident's target was an 11-year-old girl with whom he had corresponded online.

The reporting party came across disturbing messages exchanged between Wacks and the victim on her home computer. The victim was friends with the reporting party's children.

Those messages included Wacks asking the victim to perform sex acts on herself. Detectives obtained a search warrant and seized Wacks' computer. After his arrest, Wacks admitted to the crime.

He pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and a count of dangerous crimes against children. Wacks was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison.

Barry Wayne Neuenschwander was 21 years old when he was arrested last August on two charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of luring a minor for sexual exploitation.

Online he portrayed himself as an underage female and exchanged nude photos with his victims. Evidence was found at his home and he was arrested.

Neuenschwander pleaded guilty and is serving a five-year prison sentence.

Statewide, a staggering 30,000 complaints have been filed and thousands of suspects have been arrested since the program's inception in 1998.

Hundreds of victims have been exploited - or worse, have been physically sexually abused by Internet predators.

Nationwide, more than 280,000 complaints have been investigated and nearly 30,000 people have been prosecuted.

The good news is; the country's 61 task forces in operation have educated hundreds of thousands of children to the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.

While each task force operates independently, they share information, particularly when crimes cross jurisdictional boundaries, such as transmitting child pornography over the Internet.

For more information, contact Sgt. Jerry Barker, commander of the state task force, at (623) 466-1828.


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