Sting operations like the notorious “To Catch a Predator” operation in Okinawa, Japan have spread like wildfire across U.S. military bases throughout the Pacific and beyond. They’ve ensnared hundreds of service members—many of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing—and allowed military leadership to achieve very public PR victories in the War Against Sexual Assault.
No rank is safe. No amount of experience is enough to spare you from the prosecution’s hammer. Whether you’re a Private or a Lieutenant Colonel, you’re at risk of being caught up in these sinister sting operations.
If you’ve been caught in a sting operation, they’re already busy digging your grave.
The prosecution is at this very minute building a case against you or someone you love. They’ve done this dozens of times—and won almost every case they’ve brought to court. The prosecution knows what will sway a jury and get you to take a plea. Meanwhile, NCIS/CID/OSI are padding their numbers and touting the success of their operation.
And they will drag your reputation through the dirt.
If you don’t fight these charges now, your military career will almost certainly be over. You could be branded a sex offender. You could lose your freedom.
- Jail time is almost guaranteed. These cases have routinely been getting two to four years of confinement and dishonorable discharges. Often times, the detailed military counsel’s only advice is to plead guilty.
- Many of these sting operations involve charges of attempted sexual assault of a minor. A guilty finding will likely put you on a sex offender list for at least 25 years.
- When you get out, your new sex offender status combined with a dishonorable discharge means an employer like Walmart or McDonalds will likely refuse to hire you.
While all of this is terrible, none of it has happened yet. Your most important asset now is time. And the best use of that time is to hire an attorney that can secure total victory for you on your court date.
“An Assembly Line Built to Churn Out Guilty Verdicts”
“No one has won one of these cases. It was said these cases couldn’t be won. But after a week in trial, we exposed NCIS and the tactics they were using, and we exposed how they were absolutely entrapping people into committing crimes they otherwise wouldn’t commit.”
-Timothy Bilecki after securing a victory for his client in Okinawa, Japan
NCIS designed their sting operations to net as many guilty verdicts as possible. The success of the To Catch a Predator operation in Okinawa led to the widespread use of these tactics across the Pacific. Being stationed on American soil offers no protection. We’ve had to defend more than numerous service members stationed here in Hawaii who were caught up in stings very similar to those found in Japan, Korea and elsewhere.
Sting operation defense in the military
The prosecution has won dozens upon dozens – perhaps hundreds – of sting cases over the last few years. But what’s worked for them in the past rarely works when Bilecki & Tipon are unleashed in the courtroom. A vigorous investigation by our team combined with a relentless attack on the methods employed by law enforcement can be the difference between prison and freedom.
NCIS continues to use methods involving inducements and entrapment.
In March of 2016, Tim Bilecki defended a Marine Staff Sergeant caught up in an NCIS sting operation. During the investigation, Bilecki discovered that the very NCIS sailor who posed as the bait for the operation had later asked for the suspect’s phone number and slept with the suspect. The female sailor was removed from her position, but not before the damage was done to the prosecution’s case.
In June of 2016, Timothy Bilecki won an acquittal for a Marine Warrant Officer who was caught up in the Okinawa sting operation. In that case, Mr. Bilecki exposed the illegal tactics used by NCIS, the complete lack of oversight on the operation and the fact that NCIS was sending pictures of an adult to the Marine.
In August 2016, Mr. Bilecki exposed during court that NCIS failed to maintain all of the text messages between their “chatter” and the accused – and that they may have intentionally deleted text message evidence.
In May 2017, Mr. Bilecki won a full acquittal for his Navy officer client after he discovered that NCIS intentionally edited out portions of his client’s statement to law enforcement and that – again – text message evidence was missing.
These are just some of the issues discovered after relentlessly going after these sting operation cases. We will continue to fight and expect that many more victories will need to be had before the military changes its position on sting operations in general.
We’ve defended service members from sting operations throughout the Pacific and elsewhere. And we’ve proven ourselves more than capable of going up against the “insurmountable” odds of the prosecution’s evidence and attorneys.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind of Sting Operations Does the Military Run?
The most common kinds of sting operations involve “To Catch a Predator” type sting operations. In these operations, NCIS utilizes undercover investigators who pretend to be minors looking to meet adults online for sex. These operations have been extraordinarily prevalent in the Pacific, in particular in Okinawa and in Hawaii.
In addition to “To Catch a Predator” type sting operations, law enforcement also runs stings involving the purchase and sale of narcotics. Sting operations involving prostitution are also fairly common.
Do I Even Stand a Chance? They Caught Me Red Handed
Service members that are initially caught up in such an operation can feel completely hopeless about their chances of victory in court. After all, weren’t they just caught with their hand in the cookie jar?
Nothing could be further from the truth. Sting operations are by no means perfect. The methods they use are notorious for misleading the victims into doing something they otherwise wouldn’t do. Furthermore, the prosecution in many cases still has to prove that the service member actually knew the person they were talking to was under 16 years, that they specifically intended to have sexual relations with the person and that they took some substantial step in furtherance of that intent. In many cases, that’s impossible. The prosecution knows it. And we know it.
Bilecki & Tipon has spent years reviewing such sting operations and we understand their flaws. But we’re also a rarity in the defense world. If it were easy to win a sting operation case, even lowly defense attorneys at the JAG office could do it. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case—not by a long shot.
What If I’m Found Guilty in a Sting Operation Case?
It depends on just what exactly you are found guilty of. But at the very least, a guilty verdict will most likely land you a dishonorable discharge, the total loss of your military benefits and quite possibly jail time.
If you’ve been caught up in a sting operation and your lawyer is telling you to plead guilty before really looking at the case and coming up with a trial strategy, you need to think long and hard about whether that attorney has what it takes to take one of these cases to trial.
Bilecki & Tipon will not advise you to plead guilty without first performing our own investigation into your case and laying out all of the options – including taking the case to a fully contested trial. In those occasions where a plea deal is the best option, we secure often secure pre-trial agreements that are far and away more favorable to our clients than what another attorney could secure.
The bottom line is that these cases can be won and pleading guilty is not your only option.