Online vigilante helps police arrest alleged sexual predator

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 18:20:20-05

NOVI, Mich. (WXYZ) — A man is behind bars and facing upwards of 20 years in prison for alleging trying to solicit a minor for sex online in Oakland County.

The Oakland County Sheriff confirms the arrest of a man, who they're not naming at this point, on Thursday.

The sheriff's office says he was arrested on a four-count felony, which included one count of child sexually abusive activity, one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes and two counts of using a computer to commit a crime.

Sheriff's deputies say the suspect is expected to be arraigned Saturday in the 52nd District Court Division 1 in Novi, where his name will be released to the public.

Police say the arrest was due in part to tips and information from a Pontiac man named Robert Lee.

"I wish we could get more of them arrested. What I can do is just raise the awareness because a lot of people know everybody that I catch. It’s husbands, it’s workers, it’s everybody," Lee said. 

Lee says after being inspired by YouTube accounts like Dads Against Predators, he set up a Facebook page where he pretends to be a 15-year-old girl. Once alleged predators reach out to him, Lee says he forwards the conversations to police in hopes of an arrest. Lee says he also sets up meet times with the alleged predators where he often films them to expose them on his social media.

"I’m playing a role of a teenage girl, but it’s actually teenage girls and boys online being lured out of their homes into these people's homes," Lee said.

Back in the fall, he used the page to help police bust a sheriff’s deputy. Lee says his most recent work led to the arrest of an employee at St. Joseph Trinity Health in Pontiac Thursday afternoon.

In an emailed statement a spokesperson for Trinity Health says:

"We are aware that an employee of Trinity Health is under investigation by the Oakland County Sherriff's Department. Due to confidentiality, we will not discuss his current employment status at this time.  While the alleged crime occurred off hospital property, we've taken measures to assure the safety of our staff and patients and we are working closely with law enforcement.  Please contact the Oakland County Sherriff Office for any additional questions regarding an arrest or charges.  As this is an active investigation, we will not comment further on this matter."

Police say while it's well-intentioned, citizens going after sexual predators is not recommended.

"The challenge we face is they may not know the legal standards and the evidentiary standards and the processes that are in place and required in court," Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said.  

Bouchard went on to say luring sexual predators can be considered enticement or entrapment. He says it’s best to call police instead.

"Doing it yourself has led to some bad consequences. A lot of cases were never made criminally, they were dismissed, they never got charged. We’ve seen individuals that have done this on their own, confront people and they agree to meet them and violence has started and police are completely unaware any of this is going on," Bouchard said. "There’s so many layers of problems that can come from this."

Bouchard says this is a good reminder for parents to always be aware of what their children are doing online.