Truckers target child predators in coordinated stings; two arrests made in Missouri
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Two southwest Missouri men are behind bars, charged with targeting children for sex. They were busted after a group of truckers pretended to be young girls online, and set up a meeting. The group, Truckers Against Predators, exposed the men on Facebook live for more than 100,000 followers.
That model is one Truckers Against Predators has been using for nearly three years. This week, it brought them to Springfield to meet up with a man who thought he was meeting two teenage girls. Instead, he came face-to-face with sheriff’s deputies and landed in the Greene County jail. The Truckers Against Predators founder said his purpose is personal.
“Every person that I put on camera is trying to ruin a kid’s life,” said Anthony Greene.
Anthony Greene, a Missouri native, knows the effects of abuse. That’s why he started Truckers Against Predators, a civilian-based effort to expose pedophiles across the country.
“I’m a survivor of sexual abuse from childhood. I’m also a father of a young teenage girl. I saw the scary things going on on these apps and I just felt it necessary to get involved with the movement,” he said.
Greene said his team of decoys create accounts on everyday apps, portraying themselves as 12- or 13-year-old girls and get hundreds of interested messages. They give people who message them the chance to stop the conversations. Greene said that’s not what happens.
“The vulgar things these people say often cause myself, my partner and my decoys to cry together,” he said.
The graphic texts lead to meet-ups that Greene broadcasts live on Facebook, for thousands of viewers to see. Unfortunately, Greene said, those videos aren’t enough to bring charges in Missouri.
“The solicitation of a child law basically says that the decoy has to be a child or law enforcement,” he said.
That causes problems for prosecutors.
“Anything that we have as far as evidence, they don’t want to take our evidence,” Greene said.
That changed in August when Greene and his team exposed a Birch Tree man who wanted to start a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. Richard Holford was later arrested by Shannon County Deputies.
“Seems like predators are getting more bold in their actions,” said Shannon County Sheriff Darrin Brawley.
Sheriff Brawley his smaller department doesn’t have the manpower or resources to coordinate these efforts and he’s grateful for the group’s efforts.
A Shannon County deputy then posed as a decoy along with Truckers Against Predators to catch Jefferson Rippe, a Springfield man. Greene County deputies arrested him. Both men have been formally charged.
“We took full advantage of what they presented us, with the technology and resources they do possess,”
Greene has a signature saying.
“Internet justice is sometimes more valuable than police justice,” he said.
That could soon change if more law enforcement agencies join his fight.
“It’s going to start spreading and it’s going to fall like dominoes,” Greene said.
According to Greene, this is the first time his exposures have brought charges in Missouri. He’s hoping for convictions. Sheriff Brawley believes the charges will hold up in court, and the trials against both men will set precedents for the state. Both men hope lawmakers will consider changing the laws that inhibit groups like Greene’s from helping prosecute predators.
Both Holford and Rippe are being held in the Shannon County Jail with $50,000 cash-only bond.
Truckers Against Predators said it hopes to work with more agencies in the future to expose more pedophiles, collect convictions and ultimately, make Missouri a safer state.
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office says it is not working with any civilian groups.
Greene said he hopes parents will learn from his exposures. He said safety starts at home, by monitoring what apps children are using and who they are communicating with.
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