In an operation nearly identical to the overseas “To Catch a Predator” sting operation, law Hawaiian enforcement agents post Craigslist ads of women seeking military men for a relationship. The agents list a woman’s age as over 18 and use images that reflect a legal age as well. Once a service member answers the Craigslist ad, law enforcement agents then move the conversation over to Kik or some other text messaging app and start chatting with the service member. During the chats, an undercover agent will state that she is 14 years old and see if the service member continues chatting. However, the law enforcement agent will also send pictures of “herself” to the service member she is chatting with. These pictures are of an adult woman over the age of consent. If the chats continue, the agent will then steer the conversations to a sexual topic and attempt to get the service member to meet up at a pre-determined location to make the arrest.
In this case, our client chatted with an undercover agent, discussed sexual topics with the undercover agent and then drove to the house to meet up with an individual whom he believed to be a minor for sex. After the arrest was made, the Marine SSgt was taken into custody and provided a full confession to law enforcement. Law enforcement also seized and searched his phone and other contraband items were found. This case was unique in that our office was retained by the client with the intent of obtaining a pre-trial agreement to mitigate his prison exposure. When we were brought on to the case, the best pre-trial agreement that the government would offer was 30 months in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Mr. Bilecki quickly investigated the case and began digging into how the sting operation was conducted. Bilecki Law Group quickly learned that law enforcement was using techniques which could certainly be considered entrapment. In particular, the law enforcement agent sending pictures of “herself” as an adult to our client.
This contradicted the undercover agent’s persona that she was 14 years old and could easily mislead a service member to believe that the person they were chatting with was of age. In addition, it was often law enforcement which would turn the conversations sexual and attempt to get the service member to meet up for sex, not the other way around. We used this information as leverage in the pre-trail negotiations and were ultimately able to secure a pre-trial agreement with a cap on confinement of 14 months with deferral of forfeitures for 6 months so our client’s family would continue to receive pay for six months while he was in confinement