A West Richland man is going to federal prison for trying to meet up with a 13-year-old girl to have sex on three separate occasions.
What Dale H. Weber, 53, didn’t know at the time that the “naughty young girl” with whom he’d been chatting online actually was an undercover officer.
Weber was arrested when he showed up at the third scheduled meeting. He had a new prepaid phone in his car intended for the girl, because she claimed she had trouble keeping in contact because her parents didn’t load her phone with enough minutes.
At least one of the meetings was supposed to happen across the border in Oregon.
Never miss a local story.
On Wednesday, Judge Sal Mendoza Jr. sentenced Weber to 6 1/2 years in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.
“I fully take responsibility for my actions,” Weber said during the hearing in federal court in Richland, according to a news release. He was represented by attorney Christopher Swaby of Federal Way.
Weber entered a guilty plea in April to one count of travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act with a minor.
After his release from prison, he will be on supervision for 10 years, will be required to register as a sex offender and must complete a state-certified treatment program.
Mendoza told Weber that his behavior was “extremely concerning,” especially since he made repeated attempts to contact a person he believed to be a young teen, the news release said.
The case against Weber was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Court documents show that in September 2014, a Homeland Security Investigations officer found a Tri-Cities Craigslist advertisement “seeking naughty young girl.”
The officer works with the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children task force. He started posing as the 13-year-old girl and exchanged emails and text messages with the ad’s poster, who went by “Dell.”
Dell asked about the girl’s sexual experience, gave graphic details about the sex acts he wanted to perform on her, and asked for naughty pictures and videos of her, documents said.
They initially agreed to meet in a Richland park, and undercover officers watched as Weber drove around looking for the girl. The officer claimed the girl’s mother picked her up before he arrived.
Another meeting was set for Umatilla, with Weber asking the girl not to wear any undergarments. When she didn’t show, he sent angry texts about wasting time and gas, court documents said.
It was the third time, when they again agreed to meet in the Tri-Cities, that officers arrested Weber. He was 51 at the time.