Authored by Travis Gillmore via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Over the past three years, Predator Poachers, a Texas-based group founded in 2020 by now-23-year-old Alex Rosen aimed at preventing child sexual abuse, has identified approximately 500 online child predators, resulting in nearly 300 arrests in 43 states.
Many cases are still pending and there have been convictions in more than half of the country—including a decades-long prison sentence for a former Virginia firefighter announced Sept. 20 by the Department of Justice.
A 2022 sting operation conducted by the group of independent journalists targeting Virginia-based Christopher Scott Jones, led law enforcement to uncover a trail of his underage victims.
Using a decoy pretending to be an 11-year-old girl, the group communicated with Mr. Jones for several months via social media platforms, text messaging, and phone and video calls before the discussion turned criminal, and the 40-year-old firefighter suggested meeting in person for nefarious reasons.
“It took months for him to get sexual ... he’s very careful about the targets he’s choosing,” Mr. Rosen told The Epoch Times. “Our decoy Ashley did a tremendous job to convince him,” that she was real.
Instead of a young child, Mr. Jones was met by 6-foot, 4-inch tall, 300-pound Mr. Rosen and his crew of photographers ready to document the encounter.
After initially trying to avoid a conversation, the suspect eventually allowed Mr. Rosen and a cameraman into his truck, where he spent more than two hours denying the evidence before relenting and admitting why he was there.
“He was lawyer-speaking to me the whole time,” Mr. Rosen said. “It wasn’t until the end that he admitted that he wanted to have sex with the 11-year-old.”
Ultimately, Mr. Jones was arrested and charged with attempted rape of a child, upon which authorities discovered evidence of additional crimes.
After turning the information over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Norfolk, Virginia, three minors the suspect had previously sexually assaulted were identified, leading to further charges.
The defendant pleaded guilty in May “to using a communication facility to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, and coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity ... [and] to receiving child pornography of his victim.” He is now serving a 33-year prison sentence, according to a justice department press release.
A spokesperson for the James City County Police Department told The Epoch Times by email Oct. 3 that the case was initiated due to the work of the Predator Poachers.
Before launching the group, Mr. Rosen played Division 1 college football for Texas Southern University. During summer break in 2019, he discovered the world of catching online child predators by watching videos on YouTube.
At the time, he was thinking about joining the police academy in Houston, but at 19, his age prevented him.
“Since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a cop going after the bad guys,” Mr. Rosen said. “To learn that within 30 minutes of meeting online, these adults wanted to meet 15-year-olds in person was just jaw-dropping, and now we’re catching them into as young as infants—it's just beyond my imagination.”
Initially, the team worked to expose child predators but did not involve law enforcement, as they were not aware it was an option, until a trip to another state opened their eyes to the possibility of sending pedophiles to prison.
In that instance, Jamie Lee Daniels, 48, was ultimately arrested in Nebraska, convicted of four felony crimes, and sentenced to a five-to-10-year prison sentence after the group caught him sending lewd photos and soliciting sex from a decoy pretending to be an eight-year-old girl.
“At first, I didn’t even know these guys could get arrested,” Mr. Rosen said. “But then, going to Nebraska in late 2020, that really just changed everything, because I realized they could be arrested, and we started focusing on prosecutions.”
Sporting a bushy red beard, with incriminating text messages printed out in hand, and readily firing off witty criticisms that often go unnoticed by those being interrogated, Mr. Rosen—who tells the suspects his name is Gordon Flowers—uses a combination of compassionate conversation, so-called mirroring techniques that interrogators use to instill trust—and hard evidence to convince child predators to admit to felony criminal activity.
After the suspect has confessed enough on camera to help prosecutors secure a conviction, Mr. Rosen then typically says he’s starving and asks his crew to order some “fried pickles”—a code to call the police.
When officers arrive, the rapport Mr. Rosen built with suspects generally pays off, with the individuals often admitting their crimes and incriminating themselves while in police presence and with body cameras rolling—thus providing further proof of their guilt.
“There’s nothing more fun for me than catching predators,” he said.
Not all catches go according to plan, though. In one situation where an individual was attempting to flee, Mr. Rosen faked a medical emergency that stalled the suspect until police arrived.
Some tense moments have occurred—with one man cutting his wrists in a futile suicide attempt in September, another pulling a machete out of his vehicle, and a predator becoming enraged in Medford, Oregon, after being confronted and pointing a gun at the crew and several passersby.
The latter is the most dangerous situation the team has encountered, according to Mr. Rosen—though nerves are on edge following the murder of fellow child predator investigator Robert Wayne Lee, better known by his internet alias Boopac Shakur in Pontiac, Michigan on Sept. 29.
Mr. Lee approached an individual—the second such time he had caught the same person—in a restaurant in Pontiac around 10:30 p.m. to confront him about soliciting a 15-year-old girl on the internet for sex. The argument escalated quickly, with the individual pulling a knife and his companion drawing a firearm—which he used to fatally shoot Mr. Lee three times in the chest.
Two suspects, aged 17 and 18, were arrested Sept. 30 and are facing murder charges, according to Michigan’s Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.
In a statement released Sept. 30, Sheriff Michael Bouchard spoke about the work Mr. Lee had done to help protect the community, saying that his efforts resulted in multiple arrests and convictions. But he warned others about attempting to do the same, as criminals tend to react violently when approached.
“While we certainly understand his desire to hold child predators accountable, many times well-intentioned individuals ... often underestimate the potential for violence confronting a suspected predator,” Mr. Bouchard said in a press release. “They feel trapped and often lash out violently. When we have arrested predators in such circumstances, they have rammed police cars and exhibited other violent behavior in attempts to escape.”
While both Mr. Lee and Mr. Rosen’s work includes exposing child predators, Mr. Lee took a different, much more aggressive approach. He liked to slash the tires of those he caught preying on children.
Aware of the dangers inherent in his unique line of work, Mr. Rosen said the killing of Mr. Lee might make him more cautious, but he’s even more dedicated to stopping criminals.
His genre of crime-stopping was made famous by Chris Hansen’s “To Catch a Predator” series on NBC’s Dateline, which featured similar decoy ploys to catch adults preying on children online.
The show ended following an encounter with Bill Conradt—an assistant district attorney in Dallas, Texas—who committed suicide in 2007 after being caught by the crew. His family sued for $105 million the same year, and an undisclosed settlement was agreed to in 2008.
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