Man charged after vigilante group sting in Saukville

Predator Poachers posing as teen girl say they lured suspect to park, confronted him, then called police
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

Members of a group that shames people on social media who it suspects are child predators called Saukville police last week to report they had caught a man in an undercover operation who wanted to molest a 13-year-old girl in a village park.

After five members of the Predator Poachers confronted Steven M. Peltonen, 48, of Saukville on Tuesday, Nov. 16, in Quade Park, he was arrested and charged in Ozaukee County Circuit Court with one felony count of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime. 

He is being held in the county jail in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Most cases like this are investigated by undercover law enforcement officers, but in this case members of Predator Poachers, one of whom was posing as a 13-year-old girl, initiated contact with a man named Steven on social media, engaged him in an exchange of messages between Nov. 11 and Nov. 16, set up the meeting in the park and confronted him, according to a criminal complaint.

“It appears they set this up completely on their own,” Saukville Police Chief Robert Meyer said. 

In the messages, Steven, who authorities said they learned was Peltonen, asked the person posing as “Melissa” the 13-year-old girl, if she ever took “naughty” pictures of herself, then sent her an obscene photo of himself, the complaint states.

Peltonen and “Melissa” eventually agreed to meet and a Predator Poachers member posing as the girl was waiting for him in Quade Park. Members of the group said that after some small talk, Peltonen wrapped his arms around the “decoy” from behind her, according to the complaint.

The decoy then used a code word that prompted four other members of her group to confront Peltonen, then call police, the complaint states.

The members of the group are identified only by initials in the complaint, and Meyer declined to say where they are from.

Predator Poachers, which posts videos of “catches” from throughout the country online, advertises that “we will come to your community to catch predators, and you can officially become a Predator Poacher when we’re there.”

The group sells subscriptions to its site that range in price from $5 to $100 and offers all subscribers videos of “early, completely uncensored, non-YouTube friendly versions of catches.”

Those who pay $50 for the “Big Poacher” package or $100 for the “Big Game Hunter” subscription also receive discounts on Predator Poacher merchandise.

Meyer said he had not heard of the group until this case.

“I had to do some internet research,” he said.

Meyer said it would be better if police work was left to law enforcement officials. “I would prefer these sorts of things be handled by law enforcement before people jump into this themselves,” he said. “This is what we do, and there’s a certain process that needs to be followed, particularly for the safety of everyone involved.

“Now that we have this information, there’s a lot more follow up that is needed.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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