Extortion complaint against Creep Catchers stems from 'mistake,' group says
An extortion complaint to the RCMP against a vigilante group that lures alleged sexual predators to shame them online has the group admitting they made a major mistake.
Representatives of the Chilliwack Creep Catchers told CTV News they made a deal with a young target to not post a video of his 'catch' in exchange for a donation to a Chilliwack charity.
Andre Bell, who was recording the video when the 19-year-old was confronted outside Cheam Leisure Centre, told CTV he thought he was giving the young man a break.
“This is exactly why I don’t give chances to creeps because things like this happen,” said Andre Bell, a member of the Chilliwack Creep Catchers. “He was a young man with not too greasy chats and I felt bad for him. It was a mistake on my part.”
Bell says the 19-year-old had signalled his intention to meet at 13-year-old girl for a sexual liaison in chats with the group, who disguise themselves as young girls online. CTV News cannot confirm whether the young man did anything wrong.
“I told him the age of the girl, he said he would bring protection, which is condoms, and we met and I caught him,” Bell said.
The video shows Bell giving the young man a talking to, telling him what he did was unacceptable.
“It’s still inappropriate to meet 13-year-old girls,” Bell says in the video. The young man replies, “I understand what I did was wrong. I understand I shouldn’t do it again.”
It looks very similar to the Chilliwack Creep Catchers’ other catches, which include a University of the Fraser Valley instructor placed on administrative leave after he was featured in a video.
But the young man begs for special treatment, another video shows.
“Can we arrange something?” the young man asks.
“I don’t do this for anybody,” replies Bell, “but because you’re young.”
The arrangement they came to, Bell said, was that the young man would go to counselling and would pay $1,500 to a Chilliwack charity. If he didn’t, the video would go online, he said.
An audio recording of a phone call where a creep catcher laid out the arrangement and formed part of an extortion complaint to the Chilliwack RCMP. CTV News later obtained a copy of the recording.
“Fifteen hundred dollars, not at one time,” says someone posing as “Melissa the mediator.”
“You can make your first payment on Monday and then they won’t post your video,” she says.
Nicole Hunter of the Chilliwack Creep Catcher says Melissa is a persona the catchers use online. Texts from “Melissa” also show the pressure to pay.
“They WILL post it if I don’t hear from u and meet u today,” says one text. In another, she says, “Lowest payment for deposit today they would accept for donation would be $200.”
Hunter said unlike other groups, the Chilliwack Creep Catchers don’t accept money for their work.
“We don’t make any money from catching. We don’t even sell merchandise,” she said, adding that she and Bell have regular jobs and do this in their spare time.
The charity the group had in mind was the Ann Davis Transition Society, which helps people suffering from domestic abuse or violence.
But the society’s executive director Patti Macahonic told CTV News there was no way they could accept that money.
“It’s not freely given,” she said.
No money changed hands in the end and the group posted the video of the young man on Monday.
Hunter said they have been contacted by the RCMP and will try to set the matter straight in a visit with officers Wednesday afternoon. She said the group won’t try to levy punishment in that way again.
“We tried to help him and it kicked us in the butt,” she said.