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Police went high-tech to nab suspect

Officer portrayed girl online to catch man who faces charges that he tried to exploit childTHE INDIANAPOLIS STAR -- Chris Hunt is a 44-year-old man. But for about six months, the veteran Indiana State Police investigator went undercover -- under cyber cover -- as a 13-year-old girl.The result was this week's arrest of Christopher L. Inks, an Indianapolis resident and a volunteer coach for a girls basketball team in the Perry Township Youth League.Inks, 36, is charged with two counts of attempted child solicitation and one count each of child exploitation and possession of child pornography. He was arrested as he showed up for a meeting with his supposed 13-year-old Internet companion. When he arrived at the designated restaurant on the eastern edge of Marion County, authorities say, Inks was expecting a meeting that would lead to a sexual encounter. But the "minor" turned out to be a major surprise: Trooper Hunt.Hunt is part of an emerging field of law enforcement, as police agencies across the country learn skills and adapt techniques to catch criminals who make use of computers and the Internet.The technology is different, but many of the techniques Hunt used during the investigation are basically the same as those used by police in more familiar undercover operations, such as drugs and prostitution.In his investigation of Inks, Hunt entered the world of the Internet pretending to be someone he was not. Then, Hunt said, he just interacted as that person with Inks.Hunt said he didn't offer any information until the other party sought it, though."Unless they ask for it, we don't give out anything," he said.Hunt said that one of the questions asked by Inks sought assurance that the young girl he was communicating with was in fact that.According to a court document, Hunt received an e-mail on June 1 that said:"As we get closer to meeting, I need to ask you a favor. As you know this can be a little dangerous for me, and I have heard many times of guys meeting someone on-line, setting up a place to meet, only to find out that the cops were there to meet them instead and haul them away."If you could just e-mail me the following sentence, I would greatly appreciate it: 'I am not affiliated in any way with law enforcement officials nor am I working in any capacity with the intention of trapping people into arrests."Hunt said he e-mailed the sentence back just the way it was requested."It's no different that in a narcotics operation and they say, 'You promise me you're not a cop or I won't sell you this dope,' so you say, 'I'm not a cop,' " Hunt said.The investigation into Inks began in December with a tip from a Colorado Springs detective specializing in Internet crimes against children. He said he had noticed several postings from a person who went by "Chris" and who was interested in a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl, according to a court document.Hunt became a 13-year-old girl and a correspondence with "Chris" began in January. Many of the e-mails "Chris" sent to "Stacey," the name Hunt used, were sexually explicit, including photographs of a man's buttocks and genitals.After "Chris" asked for the assurance that "Stacey" was not a police officer, he elaborated on his reasoning."I believe you are who you are, but I have to protect myself in case it were to come back on me, and I have that in writing. I would love for you to pick up a thong to wear. I am so dying to see you I can't stand it," according to the court document that included the text of several e-mails.Hunt also had a little help establishing the "voice" of a 13-year-old girl. Two young but adult women filled him in on some of the lingo of young teen-age girls, and Hunt trolled chat rooms to learn what they were talking about and how.At one point, "Chris" had promised to bring "Stacey" a Britney Spears CD, but Hunt admitted he doesn't know much about the teen idol.Eventually, "Chris" and "Stacey" worked out a meeting at an ice cream restaurant in Cumberland. That's where Inks was arrested on Tuesday.Inks of the 6800 block of Reunion Lane coached a seventh- and eighth-grade girls basketball team with Perry Township Athletics during the past winter season.Bruce Macy, president of the league while Inks was a volunteer coach, said he never received any complaints about Inks from parents or youngsters. Macy said he doesn't believe that Inks was ever left alone with the girls he coached.According to police records, Inks said he completed four years of college and earns his living working with computers. When he was released Thursday on $2,500 bond a judge barred him from contact with computers and the Internet.Inks did not return a reporter's phone call seeking comment.

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