This kid got caught; other people who watch too much To Catch a Predator but were less greedy probably didn't.
Kelz Sutherland, 19, tried to lure callers into talking about sex with children before threatening to play tapes of the calls to their families, employers and the police.
He talked in one voice as he set out to trap victims, then switched to another and claimed to be the line's "monitor" or "moderator" before making his threats.
The scheming teenager ordered the terrified men to pay thousands of pounds each to have their calls "deleted from the system".
The cash was paid into the bank account of Sutherland's mother.
Sutherland extorted a total of £87,700 from callers including teachers and a company secretary with a charity.
One man paid him £34,000 in three months and another handed over £24,000 in just a month.
This is a product of the way our cultures, both in the UK and the US and elsewhere, are just so unable to discuss sexuality with any modicum of sanity that people feel ashamed about things they didn't even do. So ashamed that they're willing to pay good money to keep everything quiet.
Sutherland, though, isn't all that remorseful. If anything, he sounds like a typical professional moral scold:
Sutherland used the cash to fund a life of luxury, hiring chauffeur-driven cars to go on nights out at expensive bars.[...]
Sutherland pled guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday to extorting £87,700 from 10 men between January 1 2008 and December 31 2009.
The teenager flew into a rage in the dock before he was remanded in custody to await sentence.
He shouted: "These men are all f****** paedophiles. That's why I targeted them.
"Why is it me that's sitting here and not them?"
The Daily Record published summaries of the calls, lest you think that they were all pedophiles who deserved what they had coming to them:
Caller 2 Age 62
Got chatline number from porn mag and phoned in January 2008. Thought he was speaking to man in his 50s.
Man on phone mentioned fantasies involving teenage boys. Caller said this was "not his scene" but another voice came on line and said conversation was illegal.
Man paid £34,000 after threats and spent two weeks in hospital suffering from stress.
Now, obviously Sutherland has his own issues to deal with and this scheme isn't so common that a specific policy solution needs to be crafted to deal with people like him.
The reason I'm posting this story is that there's something odd about a culture (and I'm lumping the UK in with the US, as Americans are even more uptight about these issues) where a grown man pays around $53,000 to a 19-year-old he's never met to keep quiet about something he didn't do. The Daily Record's description of that call doesn't scream "pedophile." The caller not only refused to take the bait, the bait was just to talk about sexual fantasies, not to carry anything out in the real world. He should feel perfectly OK with taking these threats to the police once they're made.
But he didn't. He didn't and at least eight other men didn't (one did after Sutherland was using this scam for two years). Why? Were they worried about being caught having called a sex hotline or were they worried about the taint of even a false accusation of pedophilia?
People don't hand that kind of money over to others unless they actually think they're going to lose everything - family, friends, their jobs, freedom - and they don't think they have any alternative. It's not just the fault of Sutherland, who exploited a situation where people would feel helpless, but society in general for creating that environment. When at least nine men felt like they couldn't go to the police, it's not just some overly-timid person but a common, if not rational, assessment of the rest of us and the way we'd react to this story.