April 30, 2009
Attorney General Corbett announces arrest of "traveling" Internet Predator who flew from Texas to Pittsburgh; 206th arrest by Child Predator Unit
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that agents from the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit have arrested a Texas man accused of using Internet chat rooms to sexually proposition what he believed was a 13-year old girl, as well as flying from Texas to Pittsburgh to meet and have sex with the girl. The "girl" was actually an undercover agent from the Child Predator Unit using the online profile of a child.
Corbett identified the defendant as Billy Elvin Clark, 62, 1411 South 11th St., Merkel, Texas.
"With summer vacation season quickly approaching, it is important for parents to understand how quickly online predators will attempt to arrange meetings with children," Corbett said. "As this case demonstrates, some predators will travel great distances if they believe they have found a vulnerable child."
Corbett said that Clark allegedly used an Internet chat room in late March to make contact with an undercover agent. Clark initially asked the girl about school and friends, but later allegedly told her that he was looking for a "young girlfriend" and discussed traveling to Pittsburgh to meet her - offering to buy her a digital camera and sexy underwear and expressing a desire to "teach" her about sex.
According to the criminal complaint, Clark questioned the girl about hotels and restaurants that would be good meeting locations - asking her which ones were within walking distance from her home and also asking if any neighbors would be able to see her leave.
Corbett said that on Monday, April 27th, Clark allegedly sent the girl a text message asking her to call him on a cell phone. During a telephone conversation later that morning, Clark allegedly told the girl that he had just flown from Texas to Pittsburgh, that he had rented a car at the airport and would meet her at a pre-arranged location in the Cranberry area immediately after school.
Agents from the Attorney General's Office and Cranberry Township Police arrested Clark a short time later, when he arrived at the meeting location driving a rental car that he had described during his phone call.
Corbett said that agents executed a search warrant on Clark's rental vehicle, along with a nearby motel room, seizing a laptop computer, three cell phones, a computer webcam, a digital camera and a GPS unit that contained directions to the meeting location and the child's school.
Agents also seized a birthday card and Wal-Mart gift card - items that Clark allegedly told the girl that he was bringing because he believed she had recently celebrated her birthday. The birthday gift was something that had been discussed several days earlier, during online chats.
Corbett said that information about the arrest was shared with the Merkel Police Department and Taylor County Sheriff's Office, in Merkel, Texas, which executed searches at Clark's accounting business and home.
Items seized during the searches will be analyzed by the Attorney General's Computer Forensics Unit as part of an ongoing investigation.
Clark is charged with two counts of solicitation to commit unlawful contact with a minor, both first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.
Additionally, Clark is charged with two counts of unlawful contact with a minor (related to sexual offenses) and three counts of attempted unlawful contact with a minor (related to sexual offenses), both second-degree felonies punishable by up to ten years in prison and $25,000 fines, along with seven counts of criminal use of a communications facility, all third-degree felonies punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.
Clark was preliminarily arraigned via video on April 27th before Butler Magisterial District Judge Peter Shaffer and lodged in the Butler County Jail in lieu of $500,000 straight bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 1st, in Cranberry Township, before Magisterial District Judge Joseph O'Donnell Jr.
Corbett thanked the Cranberry Township Police Department, along with the Merkel Police Department and Taylor County Sheriff's Office, for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.
The defendant will be prosecuted in Butler County by Deputy Attorney General William F. Caye II of the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit.
Child Predator Unit
Corbett said that since its creation in January 2005, the Child Predator Unit has arrested 206 men from across Pennsylvania and from as far away as Texas, Florida and Kentucky.
"So far this year the Child Predator Unit has made 28 arrests - a more than 50% increase compared to the same period last year," Corbett said. "The number of predators we have been able to identify and arrest has been growing rapidly, and it is vital that parents and children understand this threat."
Corbett added that online activity for children typically increases during summer vacation, triggering a matching increase in activity by online predators trying to communicate with kids.
"Online safety is something that should be regularly discussed by every family," Corbett said, "because I guarantee that there are predators out there right now, looking for kids who are not prepared."
Corbett encouraged parents to monitor how their children use the Internet, including:
Corbett said that suspected Internet predators can be reported to the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit by using the "report a predator" link, located on the front page of the Attorney General's website.
Individuals with information about potential Internet predators can also call the Attorney General's Child Predator Hotline, at 1-800-385-1044.
Also, organizations interested in materials, speakers or presentations, may contact the Attorney General's Education and Outreach Office at 1-800-525-7642 or via email at email@example.com.
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
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