Crime

First of 26 caught in Tri-City online sting admits trying to have sex with teen

Yuriy L. Gulchuk, 35, has admitted he tried to meet up with a 13-year-old girl for sex after answering an online advertisement. The Kennewick man was one of 26 men arrested in July 2017 as part of the “Net Nanny Operation.”
Yuriy L. Gulchuk, 35, has admitted he tried to meet up with a 13-year-old girl for sex after answering an online advertisement. The Kennewick man was one of 26 men arrested in July 2017 as part of the “Net Nanny Operation.” Tri-City Herald

A Kennewick man has admitted answering an online advertisement to meet up with a 13-year-old girl for sex, but stopped at the last minute because he had “bad feelings.”

Yuriy L. Gulchuk, 35, is the first defendant in last July's "Net Nanny Operation" to resolve his case.

In all, 26 men were arrested in the five-day sting to combat online child predators.

Their cases have been moving slowly through the judicial system while defense attorneys review stacks of law enforcement reports and do their own investigations into the allegations.

Gulchuk — like a majority of the other defendants — was charged in Benton County Superior Court with attempted second-degree rape of a child.

A judge in January denied a defense motion to dismiss Gulchuk’s case.

He pleaded guilty to amended charges of attempted second-degree child molestation and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. Both felonies will require him to register as a sex offender for 15 years.

Richland Police Chief Chris Skinner and Lt. James Mjor of the Washington State Patrol share information about a multi-agency law enforcement child sex sting held recently in Richland. The five-day operation, led by the Washington State Patrol Miss

Gulchuk, a married father, contacted a teen on July 9 after replying to a Craigslist ad in which a young girl claimed to be looking for an “older daddy.”

The ad actually was created by the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force, with an undercover detective impersonating the 13-year-old girl.

Gulchuk chatted via email and text message with the fictitious girl, and acknowledged her age as he “expressed various forms of sexual contact he desired to have with her,” court documents said. He also recognized that he could go to jail for hooking up with someone her age.

The girl gave directions to a Richland home, and law enforcement watched as Gulchuk spent several minutes driving around the apartment complex before leaving without getting out of his car.

He sent a text messages saying, “I have bad feelings,” as he drove off, documents said. He was followed and arrested during a traffic stop.

Gulchuk was the only one of the 26 suspects who left the meeting spot and sent a message “that could be interpreted as his intent to not move forward with the previously expressed desires,” said Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell.

He was the only one of the 26 suspects who left the meeting spot and sent a message “that could be interpreted as his intent to not move forward with the previously expressed desires,” Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell wrote in a document accompanying the guilty plea.

Gulchuk may not have knocked on the girl’s front door, but he did take a substantial step in meeting up with her for sexual contact, Howell said. However, he gets some benefit for doing the right thing that day seven months ago and for now taking responsibility for his actions, he said.

“This resolution takes into account that while the defendant may have left the scene, it did not mitigate his actions nor his intentions,” Howell told the Herald. “As a result of this conviction, Mr. Gulchuk will have two sex offenses on his criminal history.”

Defense attorney Shelley Ajax declined talk about the case.

Gulchuk faces a recommended term of 2 1/2 years in prison, at the top of the standard range for the molestation.

Sentencing is scheduled March 14. In the meantime, he is being held without bail in the Benton County jail.

Howell also is asking that Gulchuk be ordered to get a sex offender evaluation and follow treatment, and serve three years on community supervision after he is released from prison.

Howell said in negotiating the plea agreement, he got input from other prosecutors across the state who have handled similar undercover operations.

The current trial dates on the other 24 cases are:

Feb. 26 — Douglas V. Arbogast, Andrew L. Sanders, James C. Escobedo

March 5 — Ryan D. Harris, Lucas F. Beach

March 12 — James C. Doty, William J. Barrett, Yasir M. Majeed, Gregory B. Taber

March 19 — Thomas A. Swarers

March 26 — John N. Schouviller, Antonio C. Garcia, Kyle R. Sickels

April 2 — Marco A. Celis-Hernandez

April 9 — Dewayne L. Hetrick

April 16 — Darren J. Kerbyson, Aaron D. Hagerty, Daniel A. Medina

April 23 — John M. Scheline, Gabriel Saenz

April 30 — Jesus G. Contreras Salgado, Jerome G. Williams

May 7 — Jairo Lopez

June 11 — Stephen C. Perez

Ali Almafoodh remains wanted on a $500,000 nationwide warrant after leaving town July 14, taking a 2 1/2-week trip to the Middle East and returning to the United States through Philadelphia.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer

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