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Federal ruling not slowing Internet cases locally

Awell-publicized federal decision affecting Internet crimes against children has not slowed prosecutions in Platte County. Geoffrey R. Elsas, 30, of Overland Park, Kansas, was sentenced to five years in prison September 15 for using the Internet to entice a child for sexual contact.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said, “It is business as usual for our Cyber Crimes Unit. We continue to aggressively investigate, arrest, charge, and convict predators who surf the Internet intending to harm children. We will use Missouri law to put a stop to these criminals regardless of what happens at the federal level.”

Elsas’ state court sentence comes in the wake of the case involving Jan P. Helder, 42, a Mission Hills lawyer. Helder was found guilty by a federal jury of attempting to entice a minor in August, but a federal judge set aside that verdict.

The federal judge’s decision generated attention at both the local and national levels. Local news outlets, TV’s The O’Reilly Factor, and federal lawmakers devoted substantial attention to the Helder case. Zahnd charged Helder in state court shortly after the federal judge’s decision.

Zahnd said the facts of Elsas’ case were similar to the vast majority cases charging Internet child enticement.

According to Zahnd, on October 27, 2004, shortly after 2:00 p.m., Elsas used the Internet to contact someone he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. The “girl” was actually an undercover detective with Platte County’s Cyber Crimes Unit.

Elsas began an instant message chat, which turned sexual in nature. Elsas asked, “have u done anything sexually with guys?” and “do u like to be naughty?”. He then arranged to meet at an undercover location in Platte County at 3:30 p.m. to engage in sexual conduct.

Elsas arrived at the location at 3:25 p.m. He was arrested, and police found a condom in Elsas’ shirt pocket.
Elsas pled guilty to child enticement September 15, immediately prior to receiving the five-year sentence.

Zahnd said, “Internet predators come from all walks of life and can look like your next door neighbor. This man was a college graduate with a loving family and a young child. But he used the Internet to try to entice a child, and now he will suffer the consequences.”

The case was investigated by detectives in the Platte County Sheriff’s Department assigned to the Cyber Crimes Unit. It was prosecuted by Myles Perry, the assistant prosecutor in Zahnd’s office assigned to the unit.


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