Sting nets web predators

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 10, 2009


LAPLACE – Electronic crimes investigators from St. John and Tangipahoa parishes assisted in a US Secret Service sting operation that netted four men accused of trying to solicit sex from juveniles, according to a release from both Sheriff’s offices.

The undercover operation was the first of its kind for the Secret Service’s New Orleans field office. The office has just received its Electronic Crimes Task Force (ECTF) certification prior to the pro-active operation and is now one of 28 ECTF units that exist all over the world.

According to the release, both the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office and Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office are members of this task force and have been teaming up with each other in an effort to train other law enforcement agencies, increase public awareness through safety presentations and arrest the criminals that may otherwise get away with preying on innocent children from the surrounding areas. Forensic stats, arrests and capabilities of both offices were considered over the last year as part of the ECTF certification process.

“While we strive to continue to be one of the leading Computer Forensic High Tech Crime Units in the State, our main goal is to work hand-in-hand with surrounding agencies to hunt and catch these predators, train other agencies to hunt and catch these predators and train the public to be aware that these predators exist and the dangers they pose on local children everyday,” said St. John Sheriff Wayne L. Jones.

   Detectives from multiple law enforcement agencies participated in the sting operation by posing online as children and entering online social networking sites. Men who were seeking to sexually exploit children eventually contacted some of the detectives involved. Those arrested in the operation include: Jeffery E. Smith, 41, of Wylie, Texas; Shawn Eugene Vincent, 30, of New Orleans; Billy Ray Farmer III, 31, of Ponchatoula; and Brandon Thibodeaux, 25, of Houma. All four men were charged with computer-aided solicitation of a minor.

Other area law enforcement agencies that participated in the sting operation included the Louisiana State Police, the United States Marshal’s Service and the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“I want to take this opportunity to remind parents and grandparents that the Internet can be a dangerous place for children,” said Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards. “Despite our aggressive efforts in arresting those who use the Internet to prey on our children, we are still seeing a heavy volume of predatory activity online. While we in law enforcement continue to identify and arrest these predators, parents must also monitor their children’s online activities closely.”