Teacher and Retired State Trooper Busted by Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit

Western PA teacher and retired state trooper accused of traveling to meet 13-year old “girl” for sex; 291st arrest by A.G.’s Child Predator Unit

HARRISBURG – Agents from the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit have arrested a substitute teacher and retired state police officer from western Pennsylvania accused of using the Internet to sexually proposition what he believed was a 13-year girl, transmitting a nude webcam video and then traveling to the Pittsburgh area in order to meet the girl for sex. The “girl” was actually an undercover agent who was using the online profiles of young teens.

Acting Attorney General Bill Ryan identified the defendant as Lawrence W. McElroy, age 61, of Tologo Road, Cooperstown, Venango County.  McElroy is a substitute high school teacher in Venango County (Franklin, PA) and retired sergeant from the Pennsylvania State Police.

Ryan said that McElroy was arrested on Monday, April 25th, when he arrived at a predetermined location in Canonsburg, Washington County, where he had allegedly arranged to meet a 13-year old girl for sex – believing that the “girl” did not have school because of an extended Easter vacation.

“It is important for families to understand that predators will take advantage of any possible opportunity to meet potential victims, including things like holidays, school breaks or summer vacation,” Ryan said. “The arrival of warmer weather often triggers changes in school and family schedules, with many teens spending more time unsupervised and possibly spending more time on the Internet and predators are hoping they will have greater access to more children.”

Ryan noted that the Child Predator Unit has made 291 arrests since it was created in 2005, and undercover agents typically see an increase in communication with predators during the spring and summer months.

“Last year, more than 60% of the arrests by the Child Predator Unit occurred between April and August,” Ryan said. “Now, more than ever, it is important for families to discuss online safety and to also emphasize that children should always tell a trusted adult if someone tries to use the Internet to sexually proposition them, send them graphic photos and videos or attempt to arrange face-to-face meetings.”

According to the criminal complaint, McElroy, using the screen name “iamtheone7890,” used an Internet chat room to approach an undercover agent on April 5th.  At the time, the agent was using the online profile of a 13-year old girl.

Ryan said that during the initial online chat, McElroy allegedly began a graphic conversation with the girl – asking about her sexual experience and instructing her to masturbate.  During that same conversation McElroy allegedly encouraged the girl to delete the transcript of their online conversation, “so mom doesn’t find it.”

Over the next several days, McElroy is accused of engaging in a series of Internet chats with the “girl,” expressing his desire to meet the girl for sex and explaining in extensive detail the sex acts he wished to perform with her.  McElroy also allegedly offered to give the girl a computer webcam so that she could send him pictures, offering to bring the gift to her house, “someday when mom works but there is no school.”

According to the criminal complaint, McElroy asked the girl if she had school vacation on the Monday following Easter and then proposed traveling from Venango County to Canonsburg.  McElroy also allegedly offered to give the girl a necklace, encouraging her to tell others that it was from her “bf (boyfriend) in school.”

Ryan said that in the days before the meeting, McElroy sought to verify the girl’s age, asking when she would have her 14th birthday.  He is also accused of discussing in detail how various state laws apply to sexual activity between adults and young teens, at one point commenting, “I could go to jail for a long time.”

In addition to the sexual propositions and plans for a meeting, McElroy is also accused of using his computer to send the girl a webcam transmission that showed him standing in front of his computer – nude from the waist down and engaging in sexual activity – and made a series of calls to what he believed was the girl’s cell phone.  At least three of those calls were allegedly made using telephones at a high school in Venango County where McElroy reportedly worked as a substitute teacher.

McElroy was arrested on Monday, April 25th by agents from the Child Predator Unit, assisted by officers from the Canonsburg Police Department, when he arrived at a predetermined meeting location in Canonsburg – near where he believed the “girl” lived.

Following his arrest, Ryan said that agents obtained a warrant to search McElroy’s vehicle, locating a number of the gift items he had allegedly promised to bring for the girl, including a silver necklace that included a personal engraving and a new computer webcam.  They also found a prescription pill bottle containing Viagra along with lubricant.

Additionally, agents executed a search warrant at McElroy’s home, seizing a computer and webcam. Those items will be analyzed by the Attorney General’s Computer Forensics Unit as part of an ongoing investigation.

McElroy is charged with one count of unlawful contact with a minor (related to sexual offenses) and one count of criminal attempted unlawful contact with a minor (related to sexual offenses), both first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

McElroy is also charged with two counts of unlawful contact with a minor (related to obscene and sexual materials and performances) and one count of criminal use of a communication facility, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

McElroy was preliminarily arraigned on April 25th before Canonsburg Magisterial District Judge David W. Mark, who set bail at $250,000.  McElroy is also prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with minors and may not access the Internet.  A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3rd, at 1:30 p.m., before Magisterial District Judge Mark.

McElroy will be prosecuted in Washington County by Senior Deputy Attorney General William F. Caye II of the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit.

Ryan thanked the Canonsburg Police Department for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.

Internet Safety
Ryan urged parents to regularly discuss Internet safety and security issues with their children, including the importance of telling a trusted adult if someone engages in inappropriate online activity, such as:

  • Sexual discussions.
  • Sending or requesting nude photos or explicit videos.
  • Sharing links to pornography.
  • Trying to arrange face-to-face meetings.

Additionally, Ryan said parents and other caregivers should also monitor how kids are using the Internet, including:

  • Checking the websites they use frequently.
  • Searching the social networking sites they visit.
  • Asking them to show you their online profiles on FaceBook, MySpace and other websites.
  • Discussing the items they may be posting online.

Ryan also encouraged parents to stress the importance of not sharing personal information online, like full names, ages, addresses, phone numbers and school information, and added that children should always be especially cautious about strangers who approach them online.

Suspected internet predators can be reported to the Attorney General’s Office by clicking on the “Report a Predator” link, located on the front page of the Attorney General’s website, or by calling the toll-free Child Predator Hotline at 1-800-385-1044.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty)

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