Ken Paxton

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Attorney General Abbott's Cyber Crimes Unit Arrests Four Child Sex Predators In Houston Area Sweep

HOUSTON A two-week undercover operation by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit has resulted in the arrests of four men who allegedly used Internet chat rooms, including, to target and arrange meetings with underage teenage girls for sex. Investigators said one man brought a gun and rope restraints and another man traveled nearly 500 miles from his Oklahoma residence to allegedly have sex with 14-year-old girls they had met online.

Arrested in the Shenandoah operation were: William Noel Shrum, 25, of The Woodlands; Guadalupe Wally DeLaGarza, III, 26, of College Station; Robert Wayne Ramirez, 40, of Needville; and Calvin Hoddy Hannah, Jr., 51, of Owasso, Okla. All four arrests highlight the importance of initiatives by Attorney General Abbott to track down and arrest child sex offenders around the state.

The ongoing success of our Cyber Crimes Unit is tragic evidence that child predators are lurking in online social communities and are incorrigible in their desire to seek out underage victims for sexual encounters, said Attorney General Abbott. Social networking site operators continue to ignore the dangerous realities of the online playground they have created, and their stubborn resistance to real reform measures is allowing predators and pornographers unrestrained access to our children and teenagers.

Attorney General Abbott added: I am deeply grateful for the partnership and cooperation of the Shenandoah Police Department, which offered invaluable assistance during our operations and helped to bring these four men to justice.

Shrum was arrested July 13 in Shenandoah for attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child and online solicitation of a minor after he arrived at a pre-arranged location to meet someone he believed to be a 13-year-old girl for sex. At the time of his arrest, Shrum was employed as a night maintenance worker at a church in The Woodlands, which also runs an elementary school.

DeLaGarza, who indicated he was a graduate student at Texas A&M University, allegedly engaged in sexual conversations with what he thought was a 14-year-old girl he met on The profile was actually that of an undercover Cyber Crimes investigator. He was arrested on July 18 after he arrived at a Shenandoah location with condoms, a digital camera, rope restraints, and a handgun for attempted sexual assault of a minor and unlawful carrying of a weapon.

Ramirez was employed as a long-haul truck driver at the time of his arrest on July 18. After stopping at a truck stop in Houston to chat on a laptop with an undercover investigator he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, Ramirez arrived in Shenandoah in an 18-wheeler to meet the girl for sex. Shenandoah police and Cyber Crimes Unit investigators arrested him for criminal attempted sexual assault of a child and online solicitation of a minor.

Hannah drove 480 miles from Owasso, a suburb of Tulsa, and stayed overnight in Huntsville before continuing on to the Houston area to have sex with what he thought would be a 14-year-old girl. He was arrested on July 19 in Shenandoah for criminal attempted sexual assault of a child and online solicitation of a minor. Hannah traveled further than any suspect since the inception of the Cyber Crimes Unit.

Attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child is a second degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Attempted sexual assault of a child is a third degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Attorney General Abbott has made pursuing sexual predators a top priority of his administration. In 2002, Abbott launched the Cyber Crimes Unit, which targets online predators by assuming the identities of young teenagers in Internet chat rooms, and the Fugitive Unit, which locates convicted child sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children. The Attorney General's initiative has resulted in over 470 arrests of such offenders. His office also has obtained convictions against 45 men on child pornography charges.

On May 18, the Cyber Crimes Unit was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention to establish an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The grant will help the Unit expand its efforts to protect children and partner with law enforcement agencies across Texas to fight against online child exploitation.

On July 11, Abbott was invited by U.S. Congressman Joe Barton to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington on federal legislation that would require publicly funded schools and libraries to limit access to commercial social networking websites like Attorney General Abbott has become a vocal critic of in light of their refusal to implement real safety measures to protect young users of their social networking website from being subjected to sexually explicit images and unwanted solicitations.

In March, Abbott launched a series of town hall meetings to educate parents and teenagers about the kind of criminal activity that goes on in connection with Internet diaries, chat rooms, and social networking websites. Hundreds of concerned Texans have turned out at venues across the state to participate in the interactive presentation about the risks of online predators and the steps parents can take to protect their children online.

To find out more about Attorney General Abbott's efforts to crack down on sexual predators, visit the Attorney General's website at www.texasattorneygeneral.govor call (800) 252-8011.