Wednesday, September 10, 2008

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100th Online Sex Predator Arrested by Attorney General's Cyber Crimes Unit Receives Jail Time

HOUSTON – The 100th online sex predator arrested by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit was ordered to serve 30 days in Harris County Jail each year for the next six years for using the Internet to prey upon children.

Christopher Leon Ferrell, 25, of Houston, received eight years deferred adjudication Thursday for sexually propositioning an undercover Cyber Crimes Unit investigator who had assumed the online identity of a 13-year-old girl. In addition to serving periodic jail time, Ferrell must register as a sex offender for 18 years. He also must attend sex offender counseling and is barred from using the Internet and having contact with children. The case was prosecuted by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Media links

Christopher Ferrell

Video of Christopher Ferrell's arrest

Dareyl McClain

Video of Dareyl McClain's arrest

Brian Niemi

Video of Brain Niemi's arrest

Cyber Crimes Unit investigators, along with law enforcement officers from the Sugar Land Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, arrested Ferrell during an undercover operation in Sugar Land in March 2008. Two additional suspects also were arrested during that operation. Since Attorney General Abbott launched the Cyber Crimes Unit in 2003, a total of 101 suspected online sexual predators have been arrested.

“Since 2003, the dedicated men and women of the Cyber Crimes Unit have arrested more than 100 sexual predators who used the Internet to prey upon children,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Thanks to five years of cooperative efforts with local law enforcement, our peace officers have reached an important milestone.”

Attorney General Abbott added: “We are grateful to the Sugar Land Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, for their shared commitment to protect Texas children.”

Ferrell, the 100th subject, was arrested at his Houston residence on March 17 after he participated in sexually graphic online chats with someone he thought was a teenage girl. Although Ferrell did not actually travel to meet with the online minor, Texas law makes it a felony to “knowingly solicit” a minor for sex. State law also explicitly prohibits offenders from defending charges against them by arguing that no meeting actually occurred.

Cyber Crimes Unit investigators and Sugar Land police officers also arrested Daryl McClain, 36, of Richmond. McClain was charged with one count of online solicitation of a minor for sexually soliciting an undercover Cyber Crimes Unit investigator posing as a 13-year-old girl. The Office of the Attorney General will prosecute the case in Fort Bend County.

Brian Lee Niemi, 51, of Houston, was arrested by Cyber Crimes Unit investigators and Harris County Sheriff’s deputies and charged with one count of online solicitation of a minor. He also was charged with two counts of child pornography possession after forensic analysis of his computer uncovered sexually explicit data. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case.

Since taking office, Attorney General Abbott has earned a national reputation for aggressively arresting and prosecuting online child predators. In 2003, he created the Cyber Crimes Unit, which protects children from online sexual exploitation. The Cyber Crimes Unit and the Fugitive Unit, which locates sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children, have combined to arrest more than 700 sex offenders.

The Cyber Crimes Unit also has reached out to Texas families, conducting cyber safety town hall meetings to educate parents and teens on Internet safety – particularly when using social networking sites like MySpace.com.

For more information on Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to crack down on sex predators, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.