A do-it-yourself sting operation set up by teenagers looking to catch someone soliciting underage girls for sex went spectacularly off the rails Sunday near San Diego, authorities say.
The teens exchanged texts with a 32-year-old man, then arranged to meet him at 2:30 p.m. in Vista, San Diego County sheriff’s deputies wrote in a release.
The meetup between Robert Dreyfus and the teens, two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old, took place at a Starbucks, The San Diego Union Tribune reported. The teens, who do not appear to have known Dreyfus previously, hoped to collect evidence on him to turn over to authorities.
Then Dreyfus convinced one of the 17-year-olds to get into his vehicle “to talk” — and drove away, deputies wrote.
The girl contacted her friends, who called 911, the release says. Deputies called Dreyfus, who agreed to pull over, allowing the 17-year-old to flee.
Deputies arrested Dreyfus on suspicion of kidnapping, sending harmful matter to a minor and communication with a minor for specific offenses, according to the release.
“This was really dangerous and something that’s best left to professionals in law enforcement,” said criminal defense attorney Jan Ronis, KGTV reported. “This is a bunch of kids.”
Ronis said the actions of the teens could “complicate” the case against Dreyfus, according to the station.
Authorities “strongly discourage the public from setting up meetings or contacting anyone for the purpose of catching an individual who is committing a crime,” said Sgt. Shane Watts in a second sheriff’s press release.