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Virginia deputy posed as boy, 13

February 23, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Blue Ridge Outlet Center General Manager Thomas D. Rice was released on bond from a Virginia jail Monday afternoon after being charged with attempting to have sex with a 13-year-old boy, police said.

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Rice, 58, of Martinsburg was accused of arranging a sexual encounter over the Internet with an undercover investigator posing as a boy.

He was arrested shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday outside a Bedford County elementary school, according to the Bedford County Sheriff's Office.

Bedford County, Va., is about 190 miles from Martinsburg.

A sheriff's deputy posing as a 13-year-old boy had been corresponding with Rice on the Internet since late January and had agreed to meet Rice in Bedford County, said Sheriff's Office Investigator Melvin Williams.

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Police arrested Rice outside the school and charged him with two felony counts of attempted indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14 and one felony count of attempted crimes against nature with a child under the age of 14.

Rice was released from the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Bedford on $10,000 bond at noon Monday.

A Juvenile and Domestic Relations judge ordered Rice to turn over his passport to West Virginia State Police.

Rice also was ordered not to use the Internet, and not to have any unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18. He was instructed to check in with West Virginia State Police on a weekly basis.

Rice was chief of operations under former West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton and served on the state Racing Commission.

He referred all questions on the arrest to his attorney.

Rice's lawyer, Harry Garrett of Bedford, Va., could not be reached for comment.

Corresponding with the undercover deputy on America OnLine Internet Service as well as on the telephone, Rice used his computer to transmit a photograph of himself wearing a black tuxedo, said Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown.

Rice traveled to Bedford Saturday, checked into a motel and drove to an elementary school parking lot to meet who he thought was the 13-year-old, Brown alleged.

West Virginia State Police troopers searched Rice's home in Martinsburg and seized his computer and some documents, Brown said.

Police also seized several items from Rice's Bedford motel room, said Brown.

Rice has no prior criminal record and was not the focus of any other police investigations, said Brown.

A preliminary hearing was set for April 29 at 9:30 a.m. in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Bedford.

A conviction on each of the charges carries a 5-year maximum prison sentence and a $2,500 fine.

The arrest stemmed from the sheriff department's Crimes Against Children on the Internet program in which undercover officers try to catch pedophiles using the computer network. The department has one of 10 ''cyberpatrol'' units around the country funded by the Justice Department.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.




related stories:

-- Most police don't track online porn, pedophiles

-- Rice arrest shocks, saddens colleagues

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