New Will County High-Tech Crimes Unit tracking predators online
BY JON SEIDEL Sun-Times Media October 7, 2012 6:18PM
Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow (right) is seen with members of the Will County State's Attorney Office's High-Tech Crimes Unit that include (from left to right) Rich Wistocki, an officer with the Naperville Police Department, Josh Fazio, an investigator with the Will County Sheriff's High-Tech Crimes Unit, and Megan Brooks, a Will County State's Attorney investigator, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, at 57 N. Ottawa St. in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 9, 2012 6:12AM
First they said they caught Kevin Gricius Jr. of Lockport with pornographic videos no one should have.
Then they nabbed Jason Horton of Romeoville in March for the same thing. The cops said he had videos of children as young as 2. And they said the 33-year-old had been downloading them for years.
But Daniel Abela, 44, of Elgin almost took things to a dangerous new level in May. He was texting someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl, police said, asking for sex.
He was wrong. The person on the other end of Abela’s phone turned out to be Rich Wistocki, a Naperville cop.
Now Gricius, Abela and others are facing various criminal charges connected to the exploitation of young children. Court records show Horton has already pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated child pornography.
The Will County state’s attorney’s office’s recently assembled High-Tech Crimes Unit targeted all of the men in its efforts to weed out some of the most dangerous people preying on children where they spend most of their time: online.
The list of defendants keeps growing.
Wistocki said he knew of 150 computer Internet connections where child pornography was being downloaded in Will County in the last three months. He can keep an eye on them from his computer desktop, and he helps State’s Attorney James Glasgow’s office track them down with the help of the Illinois attorney general’s office, the Will County sheriff and other local police agencies.
“No one online is anonymous,” Wistocki said.
Wistocki and Glasgow compare basic child pornography to a gateway drug. A viewer can grow tolerant, they said, and turn to more hard-core images. Eventually a picture on the computer isn’t enough.
“Then they go out and get a real child,” Wistocki said.
They do as Abela is accused, finding a child online in chat rooms or, more recently, a smart phone application.
Others, like Brandon Bergthold of Frankfort Square, post ads on Craigslist. Cook County police discovered one of Bergthold’s ads, seeking “fathers willing to share their daughters,” and Will County helped put him in prison. He’s already pleaded guilty to indecent solicitation of a child and was sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
The “typical” person looking at child pornography online is hard to describe, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A study of 1,713 people arrested for child porn in a one-year period found virtually all of the suspects were men, 91 percent were white and most were unmarried. But it said they came from all ages and levels of income and education.
It said 40 percent also sexually abused children.
Glasgow’s High-Tech Crimes Unit works with the national center. It’s also part of an Internet Crimes Against Children task force led by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the U.S. Department of Justice. Though the unit was just formed this year, Wistocki said Will County has been part of that task force for years and tried to have investigators across Will County trained in 2010.
Unfortunately, he said, the local agencies lacked manpower, time and resources, so Glasgow eventually started his new unit.
Not only does it track down online predators and help local police departments do the same, Wistocki said its members are willing to teach at Will County schools. Among his warnings for parents, he said, is to be responsible for their children’s lives online and off.
“There’s no such thing as a violation of their privacy,” Wistocki said, “because you are responsible for your child.”