Tips of cybercrime skyrocketed while cases languished

2014-04-27T05:30:00Z Tips of cybercrime skyrocketed while cases languishedDEE J. HALL | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6132

The annual number of tips about online sexual exploitation of children nearly tripled in just one year at a time when two state Department of Justice officials allegedly failed to timely pursue such cases, resulting in their departure from the agency, state records show.

Each year, the DOJ receives hundreds of tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Some of the tips are investigated by agents for DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation and others are referred to local police agencies for followup.

In 2010-11, the center forwarded 366 tips to the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies, prompting the state agency to open 145 cases, according to a 2013 report by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The following year, 2011-12, the national center forwarded 909 tips, resulting in 450 new DOJ cases, the report said. Throughout that time, budget figures show the number of DOJ staff members dedicated to investigating Internet Crimes Against Children cases remained the same, at 31.

The number of tips for 2012-13 is not yet available, DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck said.

Nationwide, there’s been a huge jump in such cases, said Rebecca Kovar, manager of public relations for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Kovar said her group has referred 2.4 million tips to state ICAC task forces since it was established as a national repository in 1998 — half of them in just the past two years.

Attorney Dan Bach, who is representing a supervisor fired over investigative delays, claimed there were systemwide problems, including a ballooning caseload, that led to months or years of inaction in ICAC cases involving child pornography, enticement or similar crimes.

In addition, DOJ officials acknowledged in the January 2013 Legislative Fiscal Bureau report that the agency lacked the capability to electronically track such cases across the 181 law enforcement agencies investigating them.

Brueck did not answer questions about whether DOJ had the capability to electronically track its own cases.

Bach, a former No. 2 official at DOJ, is representing Willie Brantley, a former special agent in charge of the Milwaukee office who is fighting his termination. Anna King, a special agent in the Milwaukee office, also has left the agency after allegedly failing to aggressively pursue ICAC cases, but DOJ officials have not said whether she resigned or was fired.

Officials have said a third employee has been disciplined but declined to name the person or the action taken.

In Brantley’s termination letter, Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John cited 43 cases held for four months or more, including one in which the delay allowed a suspect to allegedly sexually assault a child.

In one case, St. John alleged that Brantley failed to assign a tip about possession of child pornography by Robert Turk for more than a year, and then no action was taken until nearly two years later, in April 2013.

The delay caused evidence in the case to become “stale,” St. John wrote, prompting the Waukesha County district attorney’s office to agree to a non-felony plea deal for Turk, 37.

St. John also cited the Racine County case of Samuel Hawkins. Although an agent identified that a computer used by Hawkins was involved in child pornography in December 2012, a search warrant for it was not issued until more than a year later — and just days after Hawkins, 26, allegedly molested an 11-year-old boy, St. John wrote.

But Bach said both the large increase in ICAC cases and disagreement over who was in charge of tracking their progress may have led to some tips being overlooked and cases neglected.

“The backlog of ICAC referrals was an issue well known to the Department of Justice management officials long before Mr. Brantley’s termination, and was the result of factors over which he had no control,” Bach wrote in a letter sent last week to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission appealing Brantley’s firing.

In an interview, Bach said the 43 cases for which Brantley was terminated “do not even show up as cases that are assigned to him.”

He said the ICAC commander in Madison was responsible for tracking them and generating monthly reports. Jenniffer Price was the ICAC commander until December, when Matthew Joy took over.

Brueck disagreed, saying in an emailed response that Brantley was responsible for all agents in the Milwaukee office, including King, who was specifically assigned to investigate Internet crimes against children. She said Price and Joy do not supervise any agents.

Citing a growing workload, DOJ in mid-2013 secured about $450,000 a year to added three special agents and two criminal analysts to work on ICAC crimes, bringing the total staff for dedicated to such cases to 36.

Brueck said the agency also has expanded the number of local law enforcement agencies participating in the statewide ICAC task force to allow DOJ to refer out more cases.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the state Department of Justice has not identified the work location of a third disciplined employee.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. purplepenquin
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    purplepenquin - April 29, 2014 9:41 am
    Can't help but wonder how much pressure Scott Walker put on the DoJ to go after the Solidarity Singers and ignore everything else.

  2. ForeverYours
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    ForeverYours - April 27, 2014 9:28 pm
    "State DOJ improperly demoted detective"

    The agency violated state whistleblower laws when it bumped Joell Schigur out her post as director of the Public Integrity Bureau in May 2008. Agency officials made the move a month after Schigur warned that assigning agents to protect Van Hollen at the convention in St. Paul, Minn., might amount to using state resources for a political activity.

    “Had Schigur not made her disclosures of ’information’ ... DOJ would not have taken disciplinary action against her that it did,” Administrative Law Judge Deborah Little Cohn wrote.

    Schigur helped develop the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit and developed a reputation as a national expert on cyber predators. In 2006 she was promoted to director of the Public Integrity Bureau.

  3. ForeverYours
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    ForeverYours - April 27, 2014 8:32 pm
    Perhaps J.B. and his political deputies Ray Taffora and Mike Myszewski shouldn't have demoted Joell Schigur - the top notch director of DOJ's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force - after she questioned the legality of providing state-funded security for Van Hollen at the Republican National Convention.

    Effective enforcement seems to have taken a back seat to Republican politics at the WI DOJ .

    Read more:

    Joell Schigar's work before she was demoted by J.B.'s friends:

  4. Cowboy99540
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    Cowboy99540 - April 27, 2014 6:20 pm
    Dear Readers:

    Every now and then the truth drops right out of the sky and hits you square on the old noggin, and afterwards you really understand the question and the answer.

    Well here it is folks and it speaks the truth very loudly, clearly and to the point:

    "I guess we know why J.B. Van Hollen is not running again. If he was running, what would the campaign ads would say about this. One ad would say, This is the man who wasted taxpayer money and time on prosecuting singers for a unconstitutional administrative rule, while real crimes were left uninvestigated. I wonder if J.B. remembers the slogan, The Buck Stops Here?"

    Like I said, right to the point!

  5. talknstang
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    talknstang - April 27, 2014 5:34 pm
    i'm surprised that Wisconsin hasn't started abusing some of these disabled war vets to use with forensics like Florida is doing. And they're not even getting paid. Supposedly the caseload is so backed up that they needed help. It's a sad story indeed, especially given the fact that they violate just about every ICAC rule there is during their sting operations. The government shouldn't be in the business of creating criminals!
  6. talknstang
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    talknstang - April 27, 2014 5:19 pm
    No other state in the union comes close to what Florida is doing by creating criminals. It is obscene!
  7. talknstang
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    talknstang - April 27, 2014 5:18 pm
    Wisconsin might be a distant 2nd with these ICAC type cases and perhaps even the amount of proactive sting operations occurring like crazy. It doesn't take much of a search to find out there there are some serious problems with this ICAC program as a whole!
  8. talknstang
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    talknstang - April 27, 2014 5:15 pm
    the more important question might be, what are these cybertip complaints about and where do they stem from? Well i might have an answer to that for you. Try They are creating a much larger monster than what it actually is and the DOJ is giving out money like it was cotton candy at a circus.
  9. Cowboy99540
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    Cowboy99540 - April 27, 2014 4:54 pm
    Dear Readers:

    This is certainly the result of the failure of a much wider decision making body, whose lack of leadership is responsible for this breakdown, not these three special agents or the ICAC Commander.

    This problems comes from the very top down, in the state governmental bureaucracy where it continued right on down through the chain of command where managers and administrators have been left to deal with a near impossible task in trying to keep up with an ever widening caseload that expanded exponentially every year until they just couldn't keep track any longer.

    With that said, it is wrong for the DOJ Administration, and the management within ICAC, to now offer up these Special Agents, as scapegoats, for something that they had absolutely no control over what-so-ever. That is regarding a severe shortage of both adequate funding and manpower to the enforcement level.

    Instead of buying into what the administration is feeding them about this story, the news media ought to be asking the tough questions like where were Gov. Scott Walker and AG. J.B. Van Hollen on this issue long before it even got to this point?

  10. rgoppelt
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    rgoppelt - April 27, 2014 4:45 pm
    I guess we know why J.B. Van Hollen is not running again. If he was running, what would the campaign ads would say about this. One ad would say, This is the man who wasted taxpayer money and time on prosecuting singers for a unconstitutional administrative rule, while real crimes were left uninvestigated. I wonder if J.B. remembers the slogan, The Buck Stops Here?
  11. jenzut
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    jenzut - April 27, 2014 12:06 pm
    This would make a great "Willie Horton" campaign ad for Mary Burke:)
  12. Stuck In The Middle With You
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    Stuck In The Middle With You - April 27, 2014 12:04 pm
    Benghazi=Hillary Clinton; Wisconsin Child Sexploitation=Scott Walker & J B Van Hollen. See the buck get passed teabaggers.
  13. gobi
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    gobi - April 27, 2014 9:35 am
    JB has been a useless partisan hack. So many Republicans suddenly "retiring". I think a lot of them realize that what they have done to the people iof Wisconsin is morally wrong. Too little , too late. Let the history books forever note their behavior.
  14. Observer5
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    Observer5 - April 27, 2014 8:26 am
    Well, they do have priorities via Scoooter's marching orders
  15. College Didn't Take
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    College Didn't Take - April 27, 2014 7:49 am
    Cut these guys a break! they've been very busy prosecuting singers and side walk chalkers.
  16. athabasca
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    athabasca - April 27, 2014 7:34 am
    "systemwide problems, including a ballooning caseload"

    In other words, they're prosecuting their losing cases against singers while letting cybercrime / child-enticement cases languish.

    Heckuva job, JB!
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