Five men arrested in online sex sting - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Five men arrested in online sex sting

Ronald S. Lanners - Chippewa Falls Ronald S. Lanners - Chippewa Falls
Jay A. Liestman - Chippewa Falls Jay A. Liestman - Chippewa Falls
Mark A. Potts - Chippewa Falls Mark A. Potts - Chippewa Falls
Bernie Jo K. Staves - Menomonie Bernie Jo K. Staves - Menomonie
David R. Frank - St. Croix Falls David R. Frank - St. Croix Falls

Eau Claire (WQOW) - Police take their patrol online and it leads to a successful sting.

An online operation targeting hundreds of suspects in the Chippewa Valley helps authorities arrest five men.

With a couple keystrokes and clicks police posted ads online proposing sex with young children.

They pretended to be underage kids themselves, or an adult posing as a child sex trafficker.

"Through the prostitution, child enticement, there is all sorts of criminal activity that are operating out there in the web," says Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer.

Then internet investigators began receiving responses from potential suspects.

"We were flabbergasted.  Floored.  This thing was literally hundreds of hits that three of the lab guys were trying to sift through," says Cramer.

Once they had narrowed down five men who were willing to meet, undercover officers were prepared with the evidence needed to make arrests.

"The beauty of the internet is, that conversation, we have documented.  Everything that was said between the two parties is documented already," says Cramer.

Deputies from the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department, Eau Claire Police and Altoona Police teamed up to target online predators.

"This operation was about protecting our children.  Secondly, it was about resources, saying that we need the resources, we need the latitude to move into the digital world," says Cramer.

The city does have officers who work full time to combat online crime, but the county doesn't have the resources yet.

The sheriff is hoping this operation proves the impact internet investigators can have, "We're out there.  We want people to know that we're going to be proactive in finding out who you are."

The five men have all made initial court appearances and face potential felony charges which could lead to jail time and classify them as registered sex offenders.

The U.S. Marshals office was also operating in Eau Claire last week checking up on the more than 170 registered sex offenders living in Eau Claire County.

16 were cited for not keeping authorities up to date on where they were currently living.

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