Agent Michael Spadafora : This is the guy who 'found' the child porn on my son's computer. It's weird that the one he found with a 3yo was not found in the forensics done on that computer. So, I'm suspicious and wondering what he really did do.

April 20, 2004 — Brevard County’s top law enforcement officer, victim advocates, and prosecutor were recognized today during the State Attorney’s Office observation of National Victims’ Rights Week.
Assistant State Attorney Bill Respess was named the top prosecutor of the year and Kathy King, coordinator of victim-witness services for State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, was named the top advocate. Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Agent Michael Spadafora, an investigator in the sex crimes unit, was named top law enforcement agent. 

Florida-- Michael Spadafora surfs the Internet for several hours a day, posing as a teenage girl or boy in chat rooms and on social networking sites.
Some days, all it takes is a few minutes before the Brevard County sheriff's agent gets a bite from a would-be sexual predator, usually an older man.

On a recent weekday, he posed as a 13-year-old girl in a chat room, and soon a man was offering $500 to see a nude picture of her. In 30 minutes, as Spadafora stalled and the conversation meandered, the offer was raised to $1,500.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that one out of seven children receives a sexual solicitation online. Internet predator cases tackled by the sheriff's office rose by 38 percent to 65 in 2007.

"We are only scratching the surface here," Lt. Tod Goodyear said about the possibilities on the Internet for sex crimes against children. He heads the sheriff's unit that handles sex predator cases.

Once in a while, Spadafora, who works in the unit, will find predators who are local and will ask to meet. Sometimes, he will pass on information to other law enforcement agencies around the country.

A typical chat might begin with the exchange of "ASL," online lingo for age, sex and location. Those trolling for juveniles are sometimes brazen enough to use sexually suggestive language right away.

"Wud u like share sex chat?" asked a 24-year-old man in a recent chat, thinking he was communicating with a 14-year-old girl in Florida.

"Mature can give u more enjoy," he told Goodyear, who had logged on as a teenage girl.

Online solicitation of a minor is a felony, as predators soon find out.

"They do not have to travel to be charged," Spadafora said.

If they do, it becomes a bigger crime.

Nicholas Campbell, 19, was arrested near a gas station on Merritt Island in June after a series of conversations with agents. He was investigated after the parents of a 13-year-old girl complained about him, suspicious that he had met their daughter for sex and was planning more encounters.

Agents posing as the girl talked to Campbell online, and when he tried to meet her, he was arrested. The charges against him: online solicitation of a child under 14 and attempted lewd and lascivious battery on a child.

Numbers climb

Nancy McBride, safety director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said her organization had received 36,000 tips about online sexual solicitation or enticing a child to run away in about a decade.

In one recent week, the office received 186 reports, she said.

In Brevard, arrests by the sheriff's office increased by 75 percent in 2007, with 15 people jailed for trafficking in child pornography and six for online solicitation.

Spadafora and Agent Dan Ogden also assisted agencies in Alabama, Georgia, Colorado and Ohio, leading to the arrest of suspects in those states. Other police agencies in Brevard often fall back on the sex crimes unit of the sheriff's office for help in investigating sexual predators.

After arrests are made, an agent at the sheriff's office usually takes apart the suspect's computer to inspect it. In Brevard, that job usually goes to Agent Francis Dufresne. His job, too, is getting busier by the day.

In 2007, he examined 131 computer hard drives. He also is trained to inspect and retrieve records from cell phones, digital memory cards and Apple computers, a rare skill among Central Florida officers that has seen Dufresne's services requested by law enforcement agencies in other counties. His office space usually is a mess of disassembled computers and stacks of hard drives.

It is this evidence, collected and researched painstakingly, that helps the sheriff's office bolster its cases in court.

When a 12-year-old girl ran away from her Port St. John home in April, it took Dufresne less than 30 minutes to find out who she had been corresponding with through her MySpace account. The information and a vehicle tag number helped law enforcement trace her to the 19-year-old man from Quincy who had encouraged her to run away.