HARRISBURG – Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that agents from the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit have arrested a Kentucky man accused of traveling to western Pennsylvania in order to meet, and have sex with, a 13-year old girl who he had sexually propositioned in an internet chat room. The girl was actually an undercover agent from the Child Predator Unit using the online profile of a child.
Corbett identified the defendant as Thomas G. Vascotto, 46, Cynthiana, Kentucky.
According to the criminal charges, Vascotto initially approached the girl in an Internet chat room on July 6, 2007, identifying himself as an “older man” from Kentucky. Within minutes of his first contact, Vascotto allegedly indicated his desire to have sex with the girl, telling her that he would, “like to feel your hot naked body next to mine.”
Corbett said that as their first online chat continued, Vascotto allegedly sent the girl a digital photo of male genetalia, asking her, “think you could handle it?”
Corbett explained that Vascotto allegedly sent 13 additional photos to the girl during their initial chat, all believed to be illegal child pornography. All of those images depicted adults engaging in sexual activity with children.
According to the criminal charges, Vascotto contacted the girl numerous times during July and August, using internet chat rooms, an encrypted email system and by telephone, repeatedly indicating his desire to meet her for sex. Vascotto allegedly told the girl that he was a horse breeder, and urged her to consider traveling to visit him – telling her she should consider attending the University of Kentucky after she graduated high school so that she could be close to him, and so that they could continue a sexual relationship.
Corbett said that Vascotto allegedly continued to send the girl graphic photos and videos of illegal child pornography, telling her, “they’re kinda hot pictures and they’re an older guy with a younger girl,” adding, “I thought maybe you might like that.” During the course of their online chats, Vascotto allegedly sent a total of 33 photos and videos of adults engaging in various sex acts with children.
On August 1, 2007, Corbett said that Vascotto allegedly sent an email message to the child, explaining that he was going to travel from Kentucky to Michigan to visit his mother, and then planned to drive to Pennsylvania in order to meet the girl.
Vascotto was arrested at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Saturday by agents from the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit and Cranberry Township Police when he arrived at a predetermined meeting place in Cranberry, Butler County.
Corbett said that following Vascotto’s arrest in Pennsylvania, Kentucky State Police assisted the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit by executing a search of Vascotto’s home, seizing two computers, digital storage devices and a folder containing printed images of suspected child pornography. Those items will be analyzed by the Attorney General’s Computer Forensics Unit as part of a continuing investigation.
Vascotto is charged with one count of criminal attempted unlawful contact with a minor, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20-years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Vascotto is also charged with 33 counts of dissemination or possession of child pornography, 11 counts of attempted unlawful contact with a minor, 11 counts of obscene or sexual performances, and one count of criminal use of a computer, all third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven-years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Vascotto was preliminarily arraigned on August 4, before Evans City Magisterial District Judge Wayne Seibel, and lodged in the Butler County Prison in lieu of $100,000 cash bail. He was also prohibited from leaving Pennsylvania and ordered to have no unsupervised contact with minors and no use of computers or the Internet.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 8, 2007, before Cranberry Township Magisterial District Judge Kelley Streib.
Vascotto will be prosecuted in Butler County by Deputy Attorney General William F. Caye of the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit.
Corbett thanked the Cranberry Township Police Department and the Kentucky State Police for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.
Corbett explained that the Child Predator Unit was created to conduct proactive undercover investigations in order to identify and arrest Internet predators before they can harm children. To date, the Child Predator Unit has arrested 86 internet predators.
“I encourage parents to regularly discuss Internet safety with their children, including the dangers of meeting people who approach them online,” Corbett said. “It is equally important that children and adults report suspected predators who sexually solicit them online, or who send sexually graphic photos or videos.”