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Cyber Sting Nets Sexual Predators

It was a cyber setup - an Internet sting that, as CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara reports, lured a former federal police officer and 16 other men to meet an underage teen for sex.

Aided by the Internet vigilante group Perverted Justice, which covertly exposes online sexual predators, Kansas City CBS Affiliate KCTV unmasked a seamy side of the World Wide Web.

"It's worse than we realize," says KCTV reporter Steve Chamraz. "It's worse than parents realize. It's worse than law enforcement realizes."

It was just outside Kansas City, in a blue-collar Independence, Mo., neighborhood, that the cyber sting operation worked from a rented house for four days and nights.

There was a 72-year-old man. There was a man who e-mailed his photos asking a fictitious 14-year-old girl, "Are you ready to lose your virginity?"

A 24-year-old tuxedo salesman whose red Porsche stood out like a 4th of July fireworks display.

"We see it all the time - scout leaders, clergy and respected members of the community," says U.S. Attorney Todd Graves.

Last year, one in five kids aged 10 to 17 received an Internet sexual solicitation, and some fear police are too ill-equipped to keep up.

So the self-deputized volunteers of Perverted Justice patrol chat rooms trying to publicly shame those who prey on children for sex.

"They're trying to take advantage of innocence," says Perverted Justice member Xavier Von Erck. "It's completely wrong, it's one of the most wrong things you can do."

Graves doesn't endorse the Perverted Justice tactics, but doesn't condemn them either.

"The more hooks we have in the water, the more fish we're going to catch. There are lots of fish to catch," says Graves.

One man who e-mailed his picture to who he thought was a 14-year-old girl and asked, "When was the last time u made love?" is the same man some high school students knew as a U.S. Navy recruiter. Suspended now, he's under a Navy criminal investigation.

This sting saw men arrive -- and run -- at a rate of nearly one every hour.
Disturbing, experts say, because what was caught on tape in Middle America goes on everywhere, every night.