Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott's Cyber Predator Crackdown Yields Three Arrests, Indictments In Southeast Texas Sting

BEAUMONT – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit led a Southeast Texas sting operation that yielded the arrests and indictments of three alleged child sex predators in Jefferson County, each of whom allegedly arranged to meet and sexually assault what they believed to be 13-year-old children they had met online. The online profiles were actually those of undercover investigators with the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Russel Neil Gatch, 36, of Mooringsport, LA; Rob Roy Robinson, 52, of Kountze; and Randy Hutto, 26, of Spurger, were arrested in late October during a two-week undercover operation conducted by the Cyber Crimes Unit and the Beaumont Police Department. The three men were indicted by a federal grand jury in Beaumont Nov. 15 on one count each of coercion and enticement. Following the indictments, the three men were arrested by the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

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Russel Gatch
Russel Gatch
Rob Robinson
Rob Robinson
Randy Hutto
Randy Hutto

Assistant Attorney General Sarah Wannarka is prosecuting the cases in conjunction with U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Orwig.

“Protecting Texas children is our top priority,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Law enforcement must continue to crack down aggressively on criminals who use the Internet to prey upon young Texans. We are very grateful to U.S. Attorney Matt Orwig, Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness, the Beaumont Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Office for their commitment to collaboration and strict law enforcement.”

“Child predator sting operations have proven to be a successful way to protect our children,” said U.S. Attorney Orwig. “This would not be possible without the cooperative efforts of local, state and federal agencies working together to ensure our children can grow up in a safe environment.”

Gatch allegedly traveled over 200 miles from Louisiana to an apartment complex in Beaumont to meet and sexually assault what he thought would be the 13-year-old male he had chatted with online. He was arrested on Oct. 22 when he arrived at the pre-arranged location. At the time of his arrest, Gatch was on bond for failing to register as a sex offender with Louisiana authorities. He had been employed as a newspaper deliveryman.

Robinson was arrested on Oct. 25 in Beaumont after he allegedly arranged to meet and sexually assault someone he believed would be a 13-year-old girl. He was formerly employed as a fire fighter in Beaumont.

Hutto was arrested on Oct. 17 after he arrived to the meeting location in Beaumont, allegedly to meet and sexually assault someone he believed would be a 13-year-old male. He was employed as a teacher’s aide for special education at area middle schools.

The cases are part of Project Safe Childhood (“PSC”), a national initiative announced by United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales earlier this year. PSC encourages the use of multi-jurisdictional task forces to investigate and prosecute cases that involve the sexual exploitation of children over the Internet. Moreover, PSC urges that law enforcement efforts be complemented by community-wide campaigns to assist victims of exploitation and to educate parents, other adults, and children about Internet safety. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.

In Texas, investigative assistance in these matters is provided by the Texas Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force ("ICAC"). On May 18, Attorney General Abbott’s 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 ICAC Task Force. The Texas Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force is one of almost 50 federally funded task forces in the country dedicated to this issue.

Attorney General Abbott has made pursuing sexual predators a top priority of his administration. The Cyber Crimes Unit, which targets online predators by assuming the identities of young teenagers in Internet chat rooms, and the Fugitive Unit, which locates convicted child sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children, have combined for over 500 arrests of such offenders since their inception in 2002. Attorney General Abbott’s office also has obtained convictions against 52 men on child pornography charges.

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.