NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Queens man has taken the law into his own hands; running a sting operation to expose alleged internet predators and shame them live on the internet.
His actions are not authorized by police and CBS2’s Tony Aiello reports that some worry someone’s going to get hurt.
If Orange County teacher Jonathan Castell hoped to fulfill a fantasy – meeting what he thought was a 15-year-old named Brittany – he got a nightmare.
Tony Blas streamed the incident live online.
“Plumber by day, sexual predator hunter by night. Like Batman, I guess, without the cape,” Blas said.
Armed with a smartphone, Blas confronted Castell in August. Viewers watching the livestream recognized him as a teacher.
“We busted him on a Friday and by Monday, they had a warrant for his arrest,” the sexual predator hunter added.
Blas has live-streamed dozens of encounters, arranged with the help of “decoys” who pretend to be young girls.
“It’s very explicit – they’ll send vulgar pictures,” one woman said.
The decoy said it starts with a posting on dating sites. The decoys register, claiming to be 18 or older until contact is actually made.
“You let them know you’re 12, 13, 14, or 15 and the majority of them will just keep talking,” the unidentified woman explained.
“We just let them go, and if they want to meet we’ll meet them,” Blas stated.
Blas told Aiello that the intensity for his work comes from suffering abuse by a female family member.
“It’s almost like my therapy,” he explained.
Security expert Ed Hartnett notes that so far Blas’ targets have frozen or fled, “but like they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
“What is he gonna do when some guy takes the other ‘f’ and decides to fight? Now he has a weapon… this is a vigilante type operation and it’s gonna get somebody hurt!”
“I’m not enforcing law and that’s the definition of vigilante. I’m more exposing sexual predators that prey on children,” Blas argues.
The plumber-turned-detective says the most disturbing thing to him is how easy it is to catch men in the trap he sets.
Jonathan Castell was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of attempting to endanger a child. He claimed he was just meeting the girl for lunch.
He was suspended with pay from his teaching job and is awaiting his next court date next month.