Tuesday, September 12, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Announces 500th Predator Arrest

AUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced a landmark 500th sexual predator arrest as he continues his aggressive crackdown on sexual predators.

The arrest of Timothy Christopher Sankey, 31, marked 500 predator arrests for Abbott's Fugitive and Cyber Crimes units. Abbott created the Fugitive Unit to locate and arrest sex offenders who violate their parole and the Cyber Crimes Unit to crackdown on child pornographers and sexual predators who use the Internet to prey upon children.

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Timothy Sankey
Timothy Sankey

"Cracking down on child sex offenders is my top priority," said Attorney General Abbott. "Texans will not tolerate criminals who prey upon our children. We will continue monitoring the Internet for child predators and will work tirelessly to track down and arrest sex offenders who violate their parole."

Attorney General Abbott applauded his Fugitive and Cyber Crimes units for their efforts to protect young Texans: "The dedicated men and women of the Fugitive and Cyber Crimes units have made Texas a safer place for our children. Thanks to their hard work, 500 sex offenders have been put behind bars."

Investigators with the Attorney General's Fugitive Unit arrested Sankey on August 31, the day after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice issued a parole violation warrant for Sankey's arrest. The warrant was issued after Sankey was allegedly involved in a sexual act in the dressing room of a Kohl's store in New Braunfels.

Sankey was originally arrested by the Texas Attorney General’s Office in 2000. After a month long investigation by then Attorney General John Cornyn’s Internet Child Pornography Prosecution Unit, Sankey was arrested and later convicted for the aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl from Schertz he had met online. He was sentenced to six years in prison and served three years and six months before his release. Sankey is being held in the Guadalupe County Jail without bond.

Fugitive Unit investigators have made 412 arrests in 57 Texas counties, 17 other states and three cities in Mexico since the inception of the program in 2003. The arrests include sex offenders who failed to register with law enforcement officials, child sex offenders who violated parole restrictions, violent Louisiana fugitives who fled to Texas during Hurricane Katrina, Texas parolees who disappeared during the Hurricane Rita evacuation, and sex offenders and other violent offenders arrested through Operation Falcon II, a nationwide roundup of convicted felons-turned-fugitives.

Since the launch of the Cyber Crimes Unit in 2003, investigators have arrested 88 men from 22 Texas counties and Indonesia who were caught trying to arrange sexual meetings online with what they acknowledged were young children. Over 50 arrests have been made in central Texas , including that of 27-year-old John David Payne of Brenham, who was arrested in May for the second time in six months for sexually propositioning what he believed to be underage girls on MySpace.com and other Internet chatrooms. The "girls" turned out to be undercover investigators specially trained to recognize online child sex predators.

Prosecutors have also obtained convictions against 49 men on child pornography charges.

Attorney General Abbott is a nationally recognized leader in the fight against sexual predators. On July 11, he was invited by U.S. Congressman Joe Barton to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington on federal legislation that would require publicly funded schools and libraries to limit access to commercial social networking Web sites like MySpace.com.

On May 18, the Cyber Crimes Unit was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention to establish an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The grant will help the Unit expand its efforts to protect children and partner with law enforcement agencies across Texas to fight against online child exploitation.

In March, Abbott launched a series of town hall meetings to educate parents and teenagers about the kind of criminal activity that goes on in connection with Internet diaries, chat rooms, and social networking sites. Hundreds of concerned Texans have turned out at venues across the state to participate in the interactive presentation about the risks of online predators and the steps parents can take to protect their children online.

On Sept. 20, Attorney General Abbott and top Cyber Crimes Unit investigators will visit Westlake High School to share their online safety tips with Austin-area parents and teens.

To find out more about Attorney General Abbott's efforts to crack down on sexual predators, visit the Attorney General's Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.