KLTV Investigation Finds Numerous Sex Offenders Active on Myspace - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/28/06-East Texas

KLTV Investigation Finds Numerous Sex Offenders Active on Myspace

Millions of young people spend more and more time on the Internet, in particular, the site Myspace.  It's an online community that now has more than 100 million users worldwide.  Most are there to make friends, but a KLTV investigation dug deeper into Myspace.com and found many local registered sex offenders, including many with crimes against young children.

They seem to be making themselves right at home next to our children.

It doesn't take long to learn that Myspace is a place where almost anything goes.

"I see a lot of people who are trying to sell themselves," says Tyler Junior College student and Myspace user Christa Bradford.

Myspace has been used by millions to stay in touch with friends from school, and family members from all over the world.  But there is another side to this "place for friends."

Fellow Myspace user Zak Stout: "If you have a 13-year-old who says they're an 18-year-old, that's just easier for the sex offenders to get to."

Sgt. Mike Hyco of the Longview Police Cyber Crimes squad spends much of his time not on the computer, but on the phone -- trying to convince parents danger does lurk out there.

"They have no idea who they are, who they're talking to. They could be registered sex offenders, they could be talking to people who want to be registered sex offenders. It's a popularity contest now." 

And any child could be in the thick of it, as Hyco paints a frightening scenario.

"[A child and sex offender may have] met on Myspace, they've talked on Myspace and they've become good friends on Myspace, not thinking there'd ever be a relationship growing there. These people are good. They're good con-guys."

Some of these "con-guys" have a past. We decided to take a look at some publicly available information. We took a list of registered sex offenders from the DPS, and simply started putting the names into Myspace.   It took no time at all before we started finding matches.  Names, photographs, and other information were all similar to or matched sex offender records.

"These people used their real names. They're kind of the dumb ones. They need to be caught, and that's what we deal with," Hyco says.

Page after page we searched, and we found more and more matches. The offenders were found were mainly young people from 18 to their mid 20s.  None made mention of their crimes, and we're not showing you their photographs because their mere presence on Myspace isn't a crime.  And there's nothing police can do.

"Most of the guys we deal with as registered sex offenders are discharged. That means they're not on probation, they're not on parole, and really, they can do anything they want to do," Hyco says.

We found 13 Myspace users from eight East Texas cities -- users whose online profiles or pictures strongly resemble the sex offenders on our list from the DPS.  Some of them had many young people as their Myspace friends.

"[Children] believe these people they're talking to is who they say they are. They're not. They could be talking to me, they could be talking to anyone," says Hyco.

"It's virtually impossible to find out who these people are."

But investigators say they're finding some sex offenders specifically forbidden from going on Myspace, or the internet at all.  

Tomorrow night at Ten, we follow law enforcement as they track down men they believe were active on Myspace in violation of their probation.

Reported by Morgan Palmer morganpalmer@kltv.com

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