Thursday, November 29, 2007

CSI: The Web - Tracking Gangs and Porn Stars

I'm continuing to gather string on the the Web as virtual crime scene, which was the theme of Newsweek's story, "Murder Most Wired," about the Meredith Kercher case in Italy, A previous posting looked at the broader context, but here are two more specific examples. One involves a hunt for suspects from an MS-13 gang implicated in the killings of three kids in Newark last August. The other is a story about the recent disappearance of a college student in Kansas who recently began leading a double life as a porn star:

Tracking Newark shooting suspects on MySpace
by Jonathan Schuppe
Sunday August 19, 2007, 12:10 PM
The Star-Ledger

The 60 sleepless hours Newark Detective Rasheen Peppers spent chasing the half-brothers wanted in the Newark schoolyard shootings began at his home in Newark, at the keyboard of his IBM ThinkPad, when he searched for them on the social-networking Web site MySpace.

He found nothing under the name of Rodolfo Godinez, the 34-year-old man police have described as a "principal player" in the murders of three college students on Aug. 4.

But the profile of his 16-year-old half-brother, Alexander Alfaro, was packed with clues. It listed the boy's nickname, "Smokey," and the names of dozens of friends who had sent him messages. It seemed to confirm reports that Alfaro is a member of a Latino street gang called MS-13: It included the name of an MS-13 clique (Guanacos Little Cycos Salvatruchos) and pictures of Alfaro throwing gang signs. The page also verified a crucial clue from early in the investigation: The boy had fled New Jersey.

Thursday, Peppers took an hour to build a bogus MySpace profile so he could try to strike up a conversation with Alfaro's friends. For Peppers, a deputized member of the U.S. Marshals Service task force for the New York-New Jersey region the past five years, it was an online version of the old gumshoe technique of finding friends and neighbors.

The detective spent the rest of Thursday trying to draw out the online friends. That night, the FBI in Washington, D.C., shared an informant's tip that the little brother was in in Virginia.

Peppers, remembering the MySpace page had listed friends from Virginia, asked the FBI to hold off until he and other New Jersey members of the task force could get there. Peppers, Daniel Potucek of the U.S. Marshals and Lydell James, the lead Newark homicide detective on the case, jumped in a car at 3 a.m. Friday.

Once they arrived in Virginia, the FBI told them the informant had seen Alfaro in Woodbridge, Va., hanging out with local members of MS-13. Alfaro was with another gang member from New Jersey, nicknamed "El Guapo."

"Guapo?" Peppers said he asked. "I know Guapo."

Peppers went back to the MySpace list of friends.

Peppers showed FBI agents El Guapo's pictures, which included some tattoos that matched the description provided by the informant.

By Friday night, Peppers and others tracked El Guapo to a Salvadoran restaurant in Woodbridge called Bongo's. El Guapo wouldn't tell them anything useful, so Peppers pressed his partners to raid the seven or eight houses they had been staking out.

As they were preparing for the raids, James got a tip from another informant: Godinez was in nearby Prince George's County, Md., where a black car was waiting to pick him up. The tipster said the car would leave at 2 a.m. Godinez would meet Alfaro and the two would head to Texas, then Mexico, then El Salvador, birthplace of MS-13.

At 1 a.m., investigators rushed to an apartment house in Oxon Hill, Md., about a 45-minute drive from Woodbridge, and raided a first-floor apartment with about 10 adults and teenagers inside, including several MS-13 members getting tattoos.

Godinez was in the crowd, but there was no sign of Alfaro.

Peppers and his partners called authorities in Woodbridge and told them to go ahead with their planned raid on a townhouse at Grist Mill Terrace. At around 1:45 a.m., they caught Alfaro walking out the back door. He didn't put up a fight. ... (more)

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Missing student may have been porn star

By ROXANA HEGEMAN, Associated Press Writer

A missing Kansas college student believed to be the victim of foul play apparently led a double life as an Internet porn star by the name of Zoey Zane.

Nude photos of 18-year-old Emily Sander appeared on a Zoey Zane Web site before she vanished, and investigators are looking into whether her modeling had anything to do with her disappearance last Friday.

"She enjoyed it. She is a young teenage girl and she wanted to be in the movies and enjoyed movies. She needed the extra money," Nikki Watson, a close friend of Sander's at Butler Community College, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Nobody in El Dorado knew besides her close friends."

Sander's brother, Jacob Sander, confirmed that the nude woman pictured on the site is his sister.

El Dorado Police Chief Tom Boren said FBI and state experts on Internet crime have been called in.

"Investigators are aware that Miss Sander was apparently involved in a Web site situation," he said. "Allegations that this may factor into her disappearance are being thoroughly investigated."

Sander was last seen leaving a bar in El Dorado, about 30 miles from Wichita, with a man identified as Israel Mireles, 24, authorities said. Sander and Mireles had met that night at the bar, according to Watson.

After Mireles did not show up Saturday at his job at an Italian restaurant, his employer went to the motel room where he was staying.

"His motel room was found to appear in great disarray, and a large quantity of blood was found in the room," Boren said. "Bed clothing was found to be missing. The police were called."

A nationwide manhunt was under way for Mireles and his 16-year-old girlfriend. A rental car he had been driving turned up Tuesday in Texas, where he had family. Those relatives have been interviewed, El Dorado Detective Justin Phillips said, but he declined to say whether they had seen Mireles or knew where he was....(more)


No link has yet been established between Sander's activity on the Web and her disappearance, but the case does provide an interesting glimpse into the recruitment of porn models and the distribution of revenues. The Zoey Zane site itself has been taken down, but the company that built and hosted it, using the Internet name RagingBucks, is still running this little item:

New Site
ZoeyZane.com
SEP 25 2007 - RagingBucks is proud to announce our newest teen site - the launch of ZoeyZane.com! Just as our other solo models, Zoey will be very active on her site. Get ready to see the rebills roll in! Start promoting today!
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