Catching sexual predators like 'shooting fish in a barrel
By Deborah McDermott
January 23, 2008 6:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — An Internet crime detective with the local Police Department was key to the arrest Friday of a Worcester, Mass., man on numerous Massachusetts charges of Internet solicitation of a minor.
Scott A. Simoncini, 35, of 95 Sears Island Drive, Worcester, was arrested by Massachusetts state police on five counts of dissemination of matter harmful to a minor and two counts of attempting to entice a child under the age of 16.
According to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Simoncini is a history teacher and former coach at West Boylston Middle/High School and has been put on administrative leave with pay.
Portsmouth Police Capt. Janet Champlin said Simoncini's arrest was a direct result of work conducted by Detective Kristyn Bernier.
Champlin said Bernier was acting in her capacity as a member of the N.H. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Portsmouth police are the lead agency of the task force.
Bernier, as part of her job, was going into Internet chat rooms and Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook when she identified Simoncini as a person using a screen name to entice minors into having sex, Champlin said.
Champlin said, while she could not go into specifics about this case, Internet investigators worldwide "pose as minors online. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. A child will go into a chat room and child predators will immediately start engaging in sexualized conversation."
Bernier's information was handed over to the Massachusetts ICAC task force and Massachusetts State Police. When Massachusetts authorities subsequently received a tip on the Cyber Tipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding Simoncini, armed with Bernier's information, they sought his arrest.
Following his arraignment on Tuesday, Simoncini was released on $2,500 bail and ordered to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16 and was prohibited from using the Internet, according to the Telegram and Gazette.
Evidence was seized at Simoncini's residence, and he was transported to Massachusetts State Police headquarters in Worcester, where he was processed. Champlin said that, based on the forensic investigation of Simoncini's computer, additional charges could be forthcoming.
Champlin said, while Internet investigators are constantly trolling the Web, they can't catch all the predators. Parents must play a part, as well, she said.
"Parental supervision is key," she said. "Here is someone actively online trying to solicit minors and disseminating sexual material to minors.
"So I can't stress enough: Parents need to know who their kids are talking to online, what chat rooms they are going into, because detectives online can't go into all of them.
"The old image of a child molester as a man with a trench coat hanging around a playground doesn't hold true any more," she said. "They don't have to be at a playground. They can sit in the comfort of their own home.
The Internet has provided a target-rich environment for people who want to prey on children."
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