A teen sting operation to ensnare a man suspected of preying on underage girls went drastically awry Sunday when the man allegedly kidnapped one of the teens.
San Diego County sheriff’s officials say a group of teenagers tried to set a trap for a 32-year-old man they believed was seeking underage sex, using a social media app to set up a meeting with the man at an area Starbucks Sunday afternoon, according to The Los Angeles Times.
But when the man—later identified as Robert Dreyfus—arrived at the meeting site, he persuaded a 17-year-old girl to “get into his vehicle to talk” before driving away with the teen without her consent.
The girl was able to message other members of her group, who called 911. Deputies reached Dreyfus on his cellphone and convinced him to pull over just a few miles from where the alleged abduction took place. The girl was not harmed.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Sgt. David LaDieu told The Times that the group of teens—which included two 17-year-olds and one 18-year-old—formulated the sting to try to get evidence of the man trying to solicit an underage girl.
“The group hoped to expose the male and turn over the information to law enforcement agencies for prosecution,” he said.
The group identified their target by using a social media app to contact older men looking for underage girls to have sex with, local station KSWB reports.
Dreyfus was booked into the Vista Detention facility on suspicion of kidnapping, sending harmful matter to a minor and communication with a minor with intent to commit a felony.
While Dreyfus ended up behind bars, authorities caution that the scary episode suggests why these types of issues should be left to law enforcement to handle.
“This was really dangerous and something that’s best left to professionals in law enforcement,” criminal defense attorney Jan Ronis told KGTV.
The teens’ involvement, he said, could also make the case against Dreyfus more difficult.
“Normally, law enforcement runs these operations. The solicitation is recorded. The conversations, the meeting places are surveilled. This is a bunch of kids,” Ronis said.
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