Franklin Co. man charged in statewide Internet sting

June 29, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Franklin County man was charged Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office with attempting to use the Internet to have unlawful contact with a person he thought was a 12-year-old girl.

Steven Umbrell, 22, of 19773 Sweetwater Road, Dry Run, Pa., was one of seven men charged Tuesday as a result of an Internet sting operation conducted by the attorney general's Child Predator Unit. Umbrell was charged with criminal attempt to have unlawful contact with a minor, a first-degree felony, and criminal use of a communications device, a third-degree felony, according to the criminal complaint.

Kevin Harley, press secretary for the Attorney General's Office, said Umbrell faces a maximum of 27 years in prison if convicted on the charges. Umbrell was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Lindsey in Harrisburg, Pa., and released on $10,000 bond, Harley said.


The affidavit stated the Child Predator Unit uses different types of investigative techniques to snare possible suspects.

"One method of investigation is to assume the identity of a minor child and enter AOL and/or Yahoo chat rooms," according to the affidavit.

On March 13, an undercover agent from the unit entered a Yahoo chat room identifying himself as a 12-year-old girl. Police allege Umbrell, who identified himself as a volunteer firefighter, exchanged instant messages with the agent and "quickly turned the topic of conversation to sex."

On March 19, Umbrell allegedly sent a streaming video to the agent, which portrayed him performing a sexual act. On other occasions, Umbrell asked about having sex with the "girl" and her mother and a 10-year-old friend of the girl.

Through the chat room, Umbrell arranged to meet the person he believed to be the 12-year-old girl at a fast-food restaurant in Susquehanna Township in Dauphin County, according to the affidavit.

When Umbrell arrived, he was met by agents of the Child Predator Unit, it stated.

"Today was the arrest date," Harley said Tuesday. Umbrell was one of the first of the defendants to be apprehended in the sting, he said.

"The crime itself is not showing up for the meeting," Harley said. "The crime is when you push the button and send the e-mail."

Preliminary hearings for Umbrell and the other men will be scheduled in the near future, Harley said.

State Attorney General Tom Corbett held a press conference Tuesday in Harrisburg announcing the filing of the charges. The other men ranged in age from 19 to 50 and came from Lancaster, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Schuykill and Allegheny counties, according to a press release from Corbett's office.

John Glass II, president of the Fannett-Metal Fire & Ambulance Co. said Tuesday night that Umbrell is a volunteer with the company.

"As we have seen with the cases today, sexual predators entering teen and preteen chat rooms on the Internet are commonplace and there is an explosion of child pornography on the Internet," Corbett said, according to the release.

Corbett said he has asked the Legislature for funding to expand the Child Predator Unit.

One piece of advice Corbett had for parents was to have computers in common areas of the house, rather than allow children to have computers in their rooms, Harley said.

"Every time you log onto the Internet, you're essentially inviting a stranger into your home," Harley said.

The Herald-Mail Articles