Louisville -- The FBI says a civilian website dedicated to exposing potential pedophiles goes too far. But the website's creator says they're just trying to protect your children. Now the mother of a Louisville man targeted by the group talks about how the experience changed her life. WAVE 3 Investigator Eric Flack has the story.
There's no question that pedophiles online are a problem. It's a problem Xavier Vonerck, director of a website called www.perverted-justice.com wants to eradicate. "These people are everywhere."
The question is how far is too far to catch a predator? That's what one woman wants to know after her son's name and other personal information was posted on the site. The woman, who asked that she not be identified, says "My son's not a pedophile."
The website serves as a home base for a network of civilians who lurk in chatrooms and pose as underage kids, baiting adults into asking them for sex, often bringing up the idea before their targets do. They keep a record of the conversation, often asking for the target's phone number to set up a future meeting. That information is then verified and posted on the site, along with the target's picture and a copy of the chat session.
Her son, who used the online chat handle "KY Fire Guy," had his picture and phone number posted on the website, next to an archived chat session with a girl he thought was 13. His mother says she thinks "they trapped him into saying things he did say."
"Have you ever had sex before," he asks. The response: "yes."
"Want to when I come see you?" the firefighter says. "Sure, if you do."
Then later, it's the website staffer who says: "You're going to sex me up?"
"KY Fire Guy" writes back: "Yeah, if you can handle it baby," asking his new friend for "wild sex."
Vonerck spoke with us by phone, defending the website's tactics. "I should be able to send in a person to any one of these rooms and they should be able to say whatever they want as a 13-year-old and get no reaction."
Vonerck says "a reasonable man would not respond positively to any form of sex talk with a 13-year-old."
But FBI spokesman David Beyer told us the tactics used by the staffers at www.perverted-justice.com are over the line. "Anytime the public gets involved in something of this nature, they run the risk of civil liability, perhaps criminal liability. They have the potential of identifying the wrong person."
After the website posted the phone number for "KY Fire Guy," his mother says "in a period of about two to three days there were over 600 phone calls."
"KY Fire Guy" lived with his mom when he was targeted, so it was her phone number that ended up on the website, which led to people being able to find her home address. "We were told they found our address and we needed to watch our backs when we left the house."
"KY Fire Guy" has left the state. "His picture was on the Internet. It said, 'this is a pedohpile.' Wouldn't that ruin your life?"
At one point, "Ky Fire Guy" posted a response to www.perverted-justice.com, writing that he hated himself for what he had tried to do, and thanking the website for forcing him to seek help.
But on the night the story aired on WAVE 3, he said the website made everything up, and that he has had to change his appearance and phone number because of all the harassment.