Web of Seduction
You may think that you're doing enough to protect your family by putting strict limits on your child's Web surfing.
But, as Correspondent Susan Spencer reports in this story that last aired in September 2002, it may not be enough to stop your child from being lured halfway around the world into a web of seduction.
Stephanie Lavoie remembers the day when her daughter, Lindsay, was born.
Lindsay, who was born three months premature and weighed only one pound, 10 ounces, was so fierce in her fight for life that Stephanie nicknamed her blonde little daughter "the miracle child."
Now, the miracle is that Lindsay is still alive -- after being the victim of an Internet nightmare that almost claimed her life.
"I beat myself up every day for not finding some way of preventing it," says Stephanie of her daughter's ordeal.
The nightmare began in August 2000, when Lindsay simply disappeared from the middle-class neighborhood near Tampa, Fla., where she lived with her mother, stepfather and brother.
Like many 14-year-olds, Lindsay was an Internet junkie, spending hours a day on the computer her mother had bought only six months before.
"She's a very free spirit and a loner, and just enjoys learning new things and seeing new things. I think she was just out there, looking for someone to talk to," says Stephanie.
But she couldn't believe it, when she found out who Lindsay was talking to, and what was being said.
She found love letters to Lindsay from a man in Greece named Kon who wrote that he longed to be Lindsay's husband, and the father to her children. She was 14 at the time, and in those letters, he stated that he was 35.
Even though he was 5,000 miles away in Greece, Stephanie was worried enough to order her daughter to cut off contact.
"We explained to her that this was extremely upsetting and inappropriate," says Stephanie.
Lindsay's reaction? "He just had her so wrapped by then, it was just too late to get her to change," recalls Stephanie, who added that Lindsay told her "that she loved him and that he cared for her, and age shouldn't have anything to do with it."
The emails and letters just kept coming. And soon, the man began calling Lindsay in the middle of the night.
"He had our cell phone number," says Stephanie. "He told me he knew where we lived. He said he was thinking of purchasing a home down the street. He was just controlling our life."
Stephanie tried everything to stop him. She ordered him to leave her daughter alone, she took the computer keyboard with her to work, and put Lindsay into counseling.
She said she even sent the letters she'd found to the FBI, but "they said there's nothing they could do."
Then on Aug. 28, 2000, Lindsay said she wasn't feeling well. Against her better judgment, Stephanie went to work.
When she got home, Lindsay was gone. "I walked through her room, and I just looked everywhere for her," Stephanie says. "And I knew instantly he had something to do with it."
The local police listed Lindsay as a runaway, but Stephanie knew there was more to it. "I felt so helpless, because I just knew and it seemed like no one wanted to listen, not until Sgt. Klinger came into the department," recalls Stephanie.
Sgt. Gary Klinger, head of the Polk County sheriff's department missing persons unit, opened Lindsay's file two weeks after she'd disappeared.
"In the initial report, it said that she'd been corresponding with a 35-year-old man in Greece," Klinger says. "Well, that to me threw up a red flag."
Klinger was absolutely determined to get Lindsay back because he says, "I would be absolutely frantic if it was my daughter."
He analyzed Lindsay's email records and finally identified her mystery man. He was a shady Internet entrepreneur named Franz Konstantin Baehring, a German national who was emailing Stephanie regularly, and expressing his concern for Lindsay. He would tell Stephanie he had heard from Lindsay and that she was several states away or on the West Coast.
Klinger doubted a 14-year-old without a passport could have made it out of the country, but that belief changed when Baehring began implying that Lindsay was with him.
Klinger funneled information to the Greek police and urged Stephanie to keep the lines of communication open, to "play the game" with Baehring. The big break came when police traced Lindsay's instant messenger screen name to Thessoloniki, Greece. Police there decided to enlist the help of the press, and soon pictures of Baehring and Lindsay were on TV and in newspapers all over the country.
Someone in Thessoloniki saw Lindsay's picture on the news and called authorities. Police found her walking along a street near the center of town, apparently not realizing that Baehring was walking just a few yards away. Baehring saw Lindsay being taken into custody and just kept walking.
Greek police launched a search and within a day, Baehring was arrested at a home in Athens. They confiscated staggering amounts of pornography and evidence that Baehring hadn't acted alone -- that he was part of a cyber-conspiracy using bogus documents and underground contacts to lure a vulnerable 14-year-old away from her family.
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