By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Over the years, CHP officer Stephen Robert Deck lectured countless Southern Californian motorists. But on Feb. 18, Deck wasn’t even thinking about anyone old enough to drive. According to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, the 51-year-old cop was lost in a sexual fantasy involving a 13-year-old Laguna Beach girl he’d befriended in an Internet chat room.
Deck: Steve here. I’m about 45 minutes from you and I work about 15 min from you.
Decoy minor: Wow. Kewl . . . U know I am 13?
Deck: Yeah . . . Rocky Road ice cream rules.
Deck: I just share your love of good ice cream. Yummm.
In various chat rooms nationwide, Perverted-Justice.com volunteers post profiles for fake minors and wait to see if adults respond searching for sex. The private group works closely with law enforcement. They’ve been featured on NBC’s Dateline. Last month the show aired the results of an Internet sting based in Riverside. More than 50 men were arrested, and the episode was the buzz of local law enforcement for weeks. Laguna Beach police decided to work with the group on an undercover operation of their own. A few weeks later, an oblivious Deck trolled the Internet and found the Perverted-Justice decoy posing as a middle school student in Laguna Beach.
Deck: You look sexy in your pics.
Decoy: I like it like that.
Deck: Me too, a little slutty. I bet you dress hot too.
Law-enforcement sources say Deck, a longtime CHP lieutenant, has never been married and has no kids. He’s worked as a sergeant in San Diego and was once instrumental in a crackdown on illegal immigrants darting across U.S. highways near the border. In recent years he’s been assigned to the CHP’s San Clemente office, while TheOrange County Register on several occasions has used Deck as an authority on crime prevention. Just two weeks before he launched his Internet relationship with the decoy minor, he was quoted in the Register saying that it was necessary for cops like him to “establish our presence” in the community.
Deck: Dating, kinda hard though with the age difference we have.
Deck: I don’t think your mom would like it much.
Decoy: We won’t tell her.
Deck: Perfect . . . Spent any time with older guys before?
Deck: Me too. You’re hot.
There’s no doubt that cops like Deck know it’s a felony even to attempt a lewd act on a minor. If convicted, the guilty face up to four years in state prison and are required to register as sex offenders for life. Prosecutors who handle sex crimes say pedophiles, like most criminals, take only minor steps to avoid detection and almost always believe they’ll never be caught.
Deck: I’d love to date you.
Deck: Just tell any kids that see us I’m your dad and I’m visiting.
Deck: Wish I was your daddy.
Deck: Oh, heck yes. In a heartbeat.
Deck: I just like that daughter/daddy thing . . . You’re such a beautiful girl. Wow.
Of the 13 men—ages 19 to 51—arrested by Laguna Beach police in the sting, Deck was the most cautious in the chats. Others were downright obscene. According to transcripts reviewed by the Weekly, Robert Carlos Alarcia, a 29-year-old pharmaceutical technician, told his decoy, “I just want to do it doggie [style]” and leave. The most graphic was Benjamin Alan Taul, a 27-year-old bartender at Fox Sports Grill in Irvine. He told his 12-year-old decoy that “I can’t wait to fuck you, baby” and demanded that the minor wear “no panties so I can feel my girl pussy and ass.” Taul then explained to her that he wanted “to cum in” her. Deck’s comments were like something from a Hallmark card.
Deck: Does [your mom work all day] on Saturday?
Deck: Great. We’ll have time to do pretty much whatever we want.
Deck: [smiley face] . . . Scented candles and nice music, kisses and cuddling, holding each other, passionate kisses, touching and caressing one another, mmmmm, sounds wonderful and delicious with you. I would love to hold you and kiss you. Sooo sweet.
Decoy: You gonna be my bf?
Deck: I hope!
Del Harvey is an adult volunteer for Perverted-Justice in California. She practically snarls at the mention of pedophiles. If a would-be sexual predator falls into her trap, Harvey eventually reveals herself to the man and then publicly humiliates him. She posts online not only the obscene chats but as much information as she knows about the man’s identity as well. In some cases, that includes face and erection shots provided by the man when he thought he was chatting with a minor. Those exposed often react angrily, calling Harvey a bitch or a lesbian or worse. She doesn’t care. “They’re just crazy,” she says. “They blow my mind.”
Deck: I just wish people didn’t make such a big deal about older/younger. Nothing wrong with us liking each other and being together.
Decoy: I know.
Deck: They just don’t get it.
Deck: Not much we can do about that.
Prosecutors believe some pedophiles are under the mistaken impression that they are safe from arrest if they don’t enter a potential victim’s dwelling, as shown on Dateline. In the Laguna Beach sting, only one suspect refused to go to the decoy’s apartment: Deck. He admitted during the chat that he was “nervous” and insisted on meeting first in public.
Deck: We’ll have to find a place to get some pie.
Decoy: Yes. I’d like that.
Deck: We’ll find a restaurant. Shouldn’t be hard.
Deck: Marie Callendars has good pie.
Decoy: I dunno.
Deck: If not pie, then some Rocky Road!
Deck: We’re going to get fat if we date each other!
Deck: We’ll have to work it off.
At about 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, Deck drove from his Carlsbad home to a public park in Laguna Beach. (Prosecutors ask that we not identify the park.) He wore plainclothes and didn’t carry his CHP gun or badge. He got out of his car carrying a camera and a slice of Key Lime pie. He saw the decoy—in reality, a female county probation officer—and called out her fake name, “Bean.” She asked if he was Steve. He said yes. Six detectives quickly surrounded the off-duty cop and placed him under arrest for plotting a “lewd and lascivious act upon a child.”
Decoy: We don’t have to go no where.
Deck: Yes, your room would be fine!
Decoy: Kewl. U bring the pie.
Deck: Hehehe. I think you have all the pie I want to eat. LOL . . . I bet you’d really love it. I mean REALLY love it . . . I love doing it, making you feel so good. Mmmmm. Pure heaven for you . . . It’s going to get hot.
After his arrest, Deck may have regretted ever contemplating the delights of fresh pie. Instead, he complained of a sudden medical condition—an anxiety attack, perhaps—and asked to be taken to a hospital. Doctors found nothing wrong. But his superiors at the CHP did. They let him go. The 23-year cop is free on $100,000 bail and awaiting trial.