Pender County Sheriff's Detectives arrest online predators

Reported by Laura Sinacori - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Pender County Sheriff's Detectives are trying to warn parents and their children about online predators.

Wednesday, Sgt. Scott Lawson went to South Topsail Elementary School to talk to student about internet safety.

Lawson says the problem is much worse in the Wilmington area than he thought.

Eight men were arrested after an undercover investigation conducted by the Pender County Sheriff's Office.

"I was not shocked that they were out there I was surprised at how easy it was to find them," said Pender County Sheriff Carson Smith.

Lawson posed as a young girl online and was contacted by predators.

"I was surprised that a 14-year-old girl, 13-year-old, or 12-year-old girl could be sitting in her bedroom and a stranger comes into her bedroom via the internet and takes off his clothes and starts having sex with himself in her bedroom within minutes. That surprises me.  That disgusts me," said Lawson.

Dennis Johnston was arrested during the predator sting.  He has several children of his own, which proves to investigators that this could happen to anyone.

Johnston is the only local resident that was arrested in this operation.  The other 7 predators are from other areas across the state, including two Marines from Camp Lejeune.

Lawson said this case underscores why parents should talk to their kids about the internet and get involved with their lives.

"If you're a single mom and your kid likes baseball - take off your heels and go in the yard and throw a baseball.  If you are a single dad and your daughter likes Barbie's - get on the ground and play Barbie's. If you don't give them that attention there is someone out there who is more than willing to give them that attention," said Lawson.

District Attorney Ben David says this case also sends a warning to sexual predators.

"As you are watching our children, we are watching you," said David.

The Pender County Sheriff's detectives expect to make more sexual predator arrests.

To learn more about keeping your child safe from online predators and for a free copy of "Computer Cop," call the Pender County Sheriff's Office, 910-259-1212 or the District Attorney's office, 910-259-1388.