US father hunting online for minor girls got hooked by a boy fishing for paedophiles

A Fort Pierce federal court judge sentenced Spiegel to 10 years on June 23 after his conviction on a charge of attempted online enticement of a minor. — Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Zachary Spiegel, a 38-year-old Jensen Beach husband and father of two, isn’t the first man to earn his prison sentence by sending inappropriate pictures and requests to meet for sex to an underage girl with whom he connected on social media.

But Spiegel will be one of the few in federal prison who got snared by a 16-year-old amateur undercover online detective.

A Fort Pierce federal court judge sentenced Spiegel to 10 years on June 23 after his conviction on a charge of attempted online enticement of a minor. The minor was “Shayla” a 14-year-old girl whom Spiegel met on an Internet chat service, according to the criminal complaint.

But when Spiegel met “Shayla” online, the person behind the name was actually a 16-year-old boy trying to lure paedophiles into revealing themselves. And, the criminal complaint says, Spiegel revealed himself on Jan 9 in an inappropriate photo when informed that “Shayla” was at Fort Pierce’s Sabal Palms Plaza movie theatre. This was after he sent descriptions of what he’d like to do to “Shayla” sexually in the back row of the theatre.

“Shayla” told Spiegel if he came to the theatre, she’d leave with him. Once Spiegel was on his way, the criminal complaint said, the 16-year-old and his friend went to a Fort Pierce police cruiser and showed the officer the text messages.

Spiegel stood up “Shayla,” claiming in a text message on Jan 10 that police stopped him for speeding and extended the stop to 30 minutes with questions about his license plate, his car and drugs inside. Also, on Jan 10, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Eric Urgo met with the 16-year-old boy and his parents, getting permission to assume the “Shayla” identity.

The criminal complaint said Spiegel was trying to arrange another meeting with “Shayla” and even asked if she could bring a friend. In a conversation on Jan 18, the complaint said, Spiegel requested oral sex and, later, sent another inappropriate photo.

Plans to meet on Jan 19 got scrapped when Spiegel claimed he had a medical appointment he forgot about. – Miami Herald/Tribune News Service

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