Internet sting nets local arrest

Gilroy
– A 34-year-old Gilroy man thought he was talking to a
13-year-old girl via the Internet when he asked to meet her. He
also thought a request for sex, and the nude picture he sent of
himself, were answered by the 13-year-old girl.
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – A 34-year-old Gilroy man thought he was talking to a 13-year-old girl via the Internet when he asked to meet her. He also thought a request for sex, and the nude picture he sent of himself, were answered by the 13-year-old girl.

Instead, Jason Robert Bell was communicating with Gilroy Police Detective Mitch Madruga, who along with other officers arrested Bell at Del Rey Park Feb. 4., where Bell thought he was meeting a Gilroy teenager for sex. He had brought with him rum and coke requested by the “girl,” along with rope, tape and a knife. Across town, a hotel room was waiting.

The sting was a first for Gilroy Police Department detectives, and on Monday the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office charged Bell with two felony counts of attempted lewd acts with a child younger than 14.

If convicted, Bell – who remains in custody without bail on a parole violation – faces more than four years in prison, and would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Five months ago, Detective Madruga set up an e-mail account and online profile, including a picture, portraying himself as a female 13-year-old middle school student. Madruga, who investigates sex crimes for the GPD, said he first created the profile in September to see if any adults would inappropriately contact his Gilroy character. The investigation will continue with different profiles, he said.

On Jan. 3, Bell, who had found the profile through the Yahoo! Web site, sent the girl an e-mail, Madruga said. Madruga replied on Jan. 28, a Friday, and over the course of that weekend, the two communicated back and forth via e-mail and eventually began chatting through an instant messenger.

Bell, who lives with his parents at 500 W. Tenth St. #86, often made overtly sexual comments and at one point, e-mailed a nude picture of himself to what he believed was the girl’s address.

“I have one four-hour-long chat, one three-hour-long chat, and several smaller chats, and most of it is him describing the sexual acts that were going to take place,” Madruga said.

Bell “most definitely” believed he was going to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex, Madruga said.

“During the chats, he talked about picking her up at a local park or something – a sneaking-out-of-the-house kind of thing – which she agreed to,” he said.

They decided to meet at 9001 Calle Del Rey Park, next to Luigi Aprea Elementary School, about 10pm. When Bell was arrested, he had in a backpack Malibu Rum and vanilla Coke that had been requested by Madruga, posing as the girl, during the chats.

“There were some chats along the line of, there may be force used,” Madruga said, including Bell saying he might tie up the girl.

Some items found in Bell’s vehicle – including rope, tape, a knife and a rag – corroborated that, Madruga said.

Bell was arrested on suspicion of violating his parole, stemming from a previous conviction for cultivating marijuana, and held without bail while the DA’s office investigated. The felony charges filed Monday include attempted lewd or lascivious acts with a child younger than 14 and attempting to distribute lewd material to a minor, according to prosecutors.

Bell could face four years and four months if convicted of the charges, Assistant District Attorney Steve Fein said, although that does not take into account his criminal history.

In talking with police, Bell said he was planning to meet with the presumably 13-year-old girl, but only to talk, Madruga said.

Before the meet, Bell had rented a room at Motel 6 in Gilroy.

Police seized Bell’s computer from his home, which remains at the crime lab in San Jose. They also confiscated a printed copy of a photograph of a young girl Madruga posted with his teen-age profile.

At this point, nothing confiscated in Bell’s car or computer is pointing to other victims, Madruga said.

Bell’s arraignment was not scheduled at press time.

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