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September 2022
Tim Bilecki

Airman Targeted by Vigilante Sting Operation, Charges Not Preferred

Attempted Sexual Assault of a Minor (Sting Operation)
Keesler AFB, Mississippi
Air Force Senior Master Sergeant – E-8
Charges not preferred, LOR not filed in permanent record, security clearance restored.

An innocent man caught in the grips of the military justice system is a terrible thing to behold, and yet, we see it daily. That’s because the military justice system really doesn’t care about his or her innocence. An innocent life destroyed is just as useful as a guilty life destroyed when it comes to scaring others into compliance.

Such was almost the case for an Air Force Senior Master Sergeant caught up in a vigilante online child predator sting. What saved the Master Sergeant was his belief in his own innocence and the fact that he reached out to court martial defense attorney Tim Bilecki early in the process. This is key because if military prosecutors got too far down the road without a fight, they may have just steamrolled over the man and absolutely destroyed his life.

The Master Sergeant met an online vigilante sting operation produced by a YouTuber for what he called Gulf Coast Predator Catchers LLC. These sting operations are separate from law enforcement and lack any ounce of credibility or fidelity to due process. Namely, if it gets some YouTube clicks, that’s the whole point. It’s not about saving children or keeping them safe from online predators.

Bilecki Law Group was retained to defend the Master Sergeant after the case was turned over to the command. Again, this was a smart move by the Master Sergeant because Bilecki was able to quickly determine, after filing a notice of representation, that the likelihood of a criminal conviction was extremely low due to the nature of the vigilante operation.

That doesn’t mean the prosecutors were going to make the Master Sergeant aware of that fact. They could have scared, pressured, and assured him of his certain conviction to get him to plead guilty to something. That wasn’t happening once we were retained.

As for this case, the Master Sergeant began chatting with someone he thought was “Lexi” on the MeetMe app. Despite Lexi’s age being clearly listed as 18 when the chats began, the YouTuber changed the age in mid-conversation. This caused great confusion for the Master Sergeant, and yet, confusion was the goal for this YouTuber.

Different sets of pictures were sent of “Lexi” that only added to the confusion. YouTubers like this often play upon that confusion to defame or defraud individuals by making them feel like they are caught. However, as the ages changed, the Master Sergeant made it explicitly clear that he would NOT be meeting up with a 14-year-old girl. That didn’t stop this vigilante operation, and now the Master Sergeant was staring down the loaded barrel of the military justice system.

Not only was Bilecki able to quickly decipher the scenario, but he saw to it that charges were not preferred up on the Master Sergeant. Command originally wanted to file a letter of reprimand, but again, we intervened to ensure that the LOR would not be filed with his permanent record. The Master Sergeant had his security restored and he could continue to serve this nation that he has served so well.

Vigilante sting operations routinely target military service members because they are often young, away from home, and a little naive about the threat. Service members make a great target for these types of scams because when it hits the media, the headlines “Marine Arrested” or “Air Force Master Sergeant Arrested” make for a scandalous story.

If you feel like you’ve been unjustly targeted by such a scam, do not count on military prosecutors to save the day. Again, they just need their convictions to feed the system, and an innocent man makes a good public example just as well as a guilty man. Your only option is to fight like hell and get Bilecki into that fight on your behalf.

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