Thursday, July 31, 2003

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Texas Internet Bureau Officers Arrest Four Child Predator Suspects Since Friday Traveling From Junction, Austin, Waco

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's Texas Internet Bureau officers made four more arrests of suspected child predators this morning, Wednesday and last Friday as the men traveled from locations in Junction, north Austin, and Waco, via Houston, to meet "children."

Internet Bureau officers identified the men as:

Phillip Bryan Stewart, 34, of Junction in Kimble County, arrested today;
Marcus Stephen Sterling, 45, of north Austin, arrested Wednesday;
Sanmat Kumar Panigrahi, 38, of Austin, and
Ravi Venkataramiah, 39, of Houston, arrested last Friday.

(Phillip Bryan Stewart, Marcus Stephen Sterling)

(Sanmat Kumar Panigrahi, Ravi Venkataramiah)

Three of the men allegedly traveled to northern Hays County expecting to meet young girls, assumed by them to be 13 years old. Stewart allegedly traveled to Kendall County to meet what he thought would be a 13-year-old boy. Three men have been charged with attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child. Stewart, booked into the Kendall County Jail this afternoon, has been charged with criminal solicitation of a minor. Both charges are felonies.

The "children" they stalked turned out to be Internet Bureau undercover investigators whom the men had allegedly engaged in sex talk in Internet chat rooms. The men had allegedly planned to engage in sexual activity with the children after meeting them at prearranged locations along I-35 in Hays and in Boerne in Kendall County.

"The true intentions of child predators are clear, and our Internet Bureau officers have no qualms whatsoever about taking these people off the street and putting them behind bars when they cross that line," he said. "I will not tolerate the victimization of children."

With today's arrests, the Internet Bureau has taken into custody a total of 11 suspected child predators in Central Texas since May, a trend Attorney General Abbott said signifies the seriousness of the problem.

Stewart is an insurance adjuster in Junction. Sterling is an assistant manager at a Walgreen's store in north Austin, and Panigrahi is a computer technology subcontractor for the Texas Education Agency in Austin. Venkataramiah is currently unemployed. He traveled to the Hays County area Friday from Waco, where he reportedly had visited relatives.

The Hays County Sheriff's Department, Boerne Police Department and U.S. Secret Service assisted in these arrests.