New Puzzle: High-Tech Pedophilia : Technology: Computer disks confiscated in Glendora arrest contain sexually explicit material involving young boys. Police say the greater use of such equipment is more difficult to track down.
Computers, telephone modems and videos--the high-tech tools of communication--were the sophisticated wares that accused pedophile Ed Scott used to lure and contact hundreds of boys nationwide, authorities say.
It is a troubling example, they say, of how child molesters are increasingly reaching across the country to find victims with the aid of technology.
When Glendora police raided Scott’s trailer home in a mobile home park on Alosta Avenue in January, they confiscated five computers, five videocassette recorders, nearly 300 videocassettes and hundreds of computer disks.
The disks contained sexual chats with boys who used code names and talked with Scott via their computers from cities across the country, Glendora Police Detective Brett Mickelson said.
Some of Scott’s computer programs bore photographic images of naked boys, Mickelson said. Harmless cartoons on videocassettes disguised X-rated images of youths that were revealed only when the tape tracking device was manipulated, the detective said.
“Lots of the stuff requires (computer) passwords and we can’t get into it,” Mickelson said.
“Glendora police have contacted the FBI and other agencies to get help,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jim Belna, who is prosecuting Scott. “It’s beyond the resources of a suburban police force.”
Scott, accused of molesting four boys, faces a preliminary hearing on 24 criminal charges Tuesday in Citrus Municipal Court in West Covina. He is in County Jail in lieu of $1-million bail and faces up to 54 years in state prison if convicted, Belna said.
Although the case is a rare one for Glendora--a town of 47,828 residents and 55 police officers tucked in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains--it reflects a broader danger, police say.
“It’s a relatively small problem that’s rapidly getting larger and larger,” said Dallas Police Lt. Bill Walsh, whose investigators two years ago lured one accused pedophile from Woodland Hills to Texas via computers.
“These people will travel to meet kids,” Walsh said. “There are a lot of different angles.”
The growing nature of the problem was illustrated Thursday when the U.S. Customs Service said that federal agents had raided 40 locations nationwide in a crackdown on a worldwide computerized child pornography ring.
In California, 19 Customs agents and five police officers searched 11 locations, including Los Angeles, Westminster, Moreno Valley in Riverside County and Lakeside in San Diego County.
“Basically what we have here is a bunch of computer perverts,” said William Rosenblatt, chief of the Customs Service in Miami. Computer transmissions are quickly taking over from traditional magazine formats among pedophiles, he said.
No arrests were made, but if possession is verified, suspects can be charged with federal counts that could put them in prison for 15 to 20 years, he said.
Police began discovering the technological menace only during the past five years, said Bill Dworin, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department’s sexually exploited child unit. Investigators found pedophiles using electronic bulletin boards to exchange computerized pornography and lists of youthful victims with other pedophiles, Dworin said.
Computerized pornography is more than just crude images, Walsh said. Computer scanners, sound effects and color screens enable lifelike images, culled from photographs, to be transferred to the computer and programmed with motion and sound into short, television-like X-rated scenes, the Dallas police official said. Further, interactive programs exist in which the pedophile chooses the plot line as he progresses.
Pedophiles also seduce young computer users, mainly adolescent boys who are drawn to computer technology, Dworin said. Police are often unable to investigate such crimes because many departments lack the technical expertise, time and budget to investigate high-tech computer pedophilia, the Los Angeles detective said.
In the Los Angeles area, authorities say, more than 1,600 electronic bulletin boards of all types exist. New ones can be created with link-up equipment costing a few hundred dollars.
Meanwhile, sophisticated computer users can conceal child pornography on a disk. Officers who raid a suspected pedophile’s house will often find no photos and no lists, only computer disks to which, without the correct password, they have no access, police said.
Pedophiles may find computers perfectly suited to their activities, experts say. Many pedophiles keep detailed records of their victims, said forensic psychiatrist William Vicary of Los Angeles. The computer provides a compact way to keep track of the pedophile’s victims and hundreds of photos and documents.
Because pedophiles generally lose interest in their sexual victims once the youths reach adulthood, pedophiles must continue searching for youthful victims, said Roland Summit, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Computers can aid in the search, he said.
Computers also can be a focus for what psychiatrists call “grooming techniques,” by which pedophiles offer to teach adolescents a specialized skill or expose them to activities to which they otherwise would not have access, psychiatrists say.
Police said Scott used this approach in finding his victims in the San Gabriel Valley.
“He’s a very smooth talker,” Mickelson said. “What he targets are young boys who are runaways, or who have problems at home. . . . A lot of the boys are looking for a male figure in their lives.”
Scott befriended the boys, gave them money for cleaning the windows on his trailer, suggested outings to the movies and then invited them into his trailer to play computerized video games, Glendora police say. Sexual material was introduced with a game found in the trailer called “Strip Poker,” Mickelson said. Scott then allegedly progressed to taking the boys’ pictures and then engaging in sex acts, the detective said.
In the Jan. 11 raid, Glendora police found more than 400 photos of young boys dating to the mid-1970s and about 60 letters from boys throughout the United States, Canada and England dating to the mid-1980s, Mickelson said. But much of the evidence was found on the computer disks and videocassettes.
“He would take a camcorder and video these boys at this house and put it on a computer disk,” Mickelson said.
Police are also investigating possible fraud charges against Scott. Officers found about 400 credit cards and fake identification cards, some bearing the names “Roger Shafer” and “Roger James.” Some cards identified Scott as a Texas special investigator. Mickelson said Scott was convicted of posing as a police officer in Colorado.
Scott, 48, a native of Trinidad, Colo., was born Edward James Aragon. He attended schools in Trinidad, where his mother still lives, and in Colorado Springs.
For the past 12 years, Scott worked as a records manager at Mayflower Moving in West Los Angeles. When the company computerized its records, Scott became a computer whiz, said a spokesman for Scott’s employer.
Police would not have suspected Scott if not for a 17-year-old boy who came to police with a tale of abuse.
The victim, who spoke to a Glendora officer three days before Christmas, said he moved in with Scott, then living in a Pomona trailer park, at age 12. The boy said arguments with his mother prompted him to live for three years with the kind, fatherly man who took an interest in him. But that interest included sex, as often as three or four times a day, Mickelson said the boy told officers.
After the boy spent two years in another home, away from Scott, he developed a romantic relationship with a girl and realized the abuse he had endured, Mickelson said. He then contacted police.
In examining Scott’s photos, Glendora officers recognized a 12-year-old local boy, who led them to two other youths, 13 and 14. Two of the boys said they had been sexually molested and additional charges were filed against Scott. Police were led to a 19-year-old man who said he was molested by Scott six years ago.
Walsh said parents should discuss which computer bulletin boards their child may use, occasionally monitor the child’s computer use and examine phone bills to see if long-distance computer calls to one location are common. But a good relationship between parent and child is the best protection, say police and psychiatrists.
“Very few of us listen to our children,” Dworin said. “Basically, you have to learn to talk to your children.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.