HARRISBURG – Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced the recent arrest of six suspected Internet predators across Pennsylvania and urging parents to make online safety part of their spring and summer family discussions.
“Now, more than ever, it is important for families to discuss Internet safety, as warmer weather brings changes in school schedules and family activities,’” Corbett said. “As spring quickly gives way to summer vacation season, online predators are hoping that more teens will be home alone for longer periods of time and may be spending more time on-line chatting with their friends, playing games or just exploring the Internet.”
Corbett identified the defendants recently arrested by the Child Predator Unit as:
•Josef Graf, age 70, 133 N. Rt. 88, Charleroi, Washington County.
•Donald J. Ferrenberg, age 26, 124 State Route 271, Ligonier, Westmoreland County.
•Terry Lynn Hackenberg, age 46, 93 Park Road, Jersey Shore, Lycoming County.
•Bryan Neal McLean, age 44, 212 Sunset Ave., Hanover, York County.
•Joshua D. Baer, age 31, 319 Watson Park Blvd., Lehighton, Carbon County.
•David T. Martin, age 40, 120 Coates Ave., Elkland, Tioga County.
“We know that spring and summer trigger a jump in the number of incidents involving Internet predators,” Corbett said. “Last year, our Child Predator Unit arrested 32 people during the spring and summer months, including men from every corner of Pennsylvania and from as far away as Texas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and Ohio, all trying to use the Internet to sexually victimize children.”
Corbett noted that the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit has arrested 258 online predators since it was created in January 2005. To date, the unit has a 100% conviction rate.
Recent arrests highlight dangers
Corbett said that circumstances involved in recent arrests across the state highlight the threat posed by online predators and the many different ways they operate. In each of these recent cases, suspects communicated with undercover agents from the Child Predator Unit who were using the online profiles of 13 and 14-year old girls.
According to the criminal complaint, Josef Graf, who is 70 years old, initially identified himself as a much younger man. Graf allegedly used an Internet chat room to sexually proposition what he believed was a 13-year old girl, telling her, “I want to see you naked” and urging her to travel to Pittsburgh for sex.
David T. Martin, from Tioga County, allegedly urged a young teen to meet him for sex and told her that he wanted to sign and date her underwear on the day he took her virginity.
Donald J. Ferrenberg is charged with sending a nude webcam video during his first online conversation with what he thought was a 13-year old.
Terry Lynn Hackenberg allegedly approached what he believed was a young girl in an Internet chat room, asking her to “play” with him sexually and using a computer webcam to expose himself.
Bryan Neal McLean, a 44-year old from Hanover, is accused of sending computer webcam videos that showed him masturbating in front of his computer.
Joshua D. Baer, who went by the screen name “I love busty women 27,” allegedly sent what he called “naughty” pictures during his chats with what he believed was a 14-year old girl, including photos of his genitals.
Corbett said that all of the suspects are charged with various counts of unlawful contact with a minor and criminal use of a computer, felony charges which are punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.
All of the defendants will be prosecuted in the counties where they were arrested.
Ferrenberg and Graf will be prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General William F. Caye II of the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit.
Baer, Hackenberg, Martin and McLean will be prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Christopher Jones of the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit.
Corbett urged parents to talk regularly with kids about being safe on the Internet and to stress the importance of telling a trusted adult if someone does something inappropriate online, including:
•Sending explicit photos or videos.
•Sending links to pornography.
•Trying to arrange face-to-face meetings.
Additionally, Corbett said parents and other caregivers should also monitor how kids are using the Internet, including:
•Checking the websites they use frequently.
•Searching the social networking sites they visit.
•Asking them to show you their online profiles on FaceBook, MySpace and other websites and discussing the items they may be posting online.
Corbett added that parents and kids need to understand that safety concerns now extend beyond home computers.
“Many cell phones and game systems can be used to send and receive messages or photos and can also be used to access websites,” Corbett said. “The same safety rules need to be applied to all of these devices.”
Corbett said that parents should also emphasize that kids should not share personal information online, like full names, ages, addresses, phone numbers and school information, and should be especially cautious about strangers who approach them online.
Suspected internet predators can be reported to the Attorney General’s Office by clicking on the “Report a Predator” link, located on the front page of the Attorney General’s website, or by calling the toll-free Child Predator Hotline at 1-800-385-1044.
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)