PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Two Pittsburgh-area men have been arrested in separate FBI stings that targeted child predators.
The suspects are 38-year-old Joseph Hamilton, of the North Side, and 36-year-old Thomas Stultz, of Bellevue. Both allegedly chatted online with people who they thought were underage boys, propositioned them and made plans to meet in person.
Hamilton is accused of trying to pick up a 13-year-old boy near the T station at Station Square.
Agents nabbed Stultz when he tried to meet a 14-year-old outside of Heinz Field.
The FBI says more arrests like this are pending.
“I wish I could tell you that we’ve nipped this problem in the bud and we wouldn’t see any more, but I can assure you that we’ll do many more of these arrests and investigations this year,” FBI special agent in charge Robert Jones said.
The suspected predators tried to meet up with what they thought were teenage boys after talking to them on websites. It turns out they were really talking to an FBI agent.
“You’d be surprised at the number of folks that are out there just looking for these type of children to exploit. We simply put ourselves in a position where we receive those solicitations,” Jones said.
The FBI says the two recent arrests happened when the suspects were on the website Grindr, a well-known LGBTQ dating app. That’s where FBI agents posed as teens.
The internet is one reason that child predators appear to be more active recently.
“Some of the websites and different ways to communicate are, in fact, anonymous. Usually in a case like this, there’s a movement from anonymous communication to more identifiable and explicit communication,” Jones said.
In the case of Stultz, the FBI says the communication moved from the app to text messages. Stultz allegedly sent the undercover agent nude photos of himself and graphic texts.
Both suspects are in federal detention awaiting trial on serious charges.