Nearly two years after 26 men were swept up in an undercover child sex sting in the Tri-Cities, half of the criminal cases have yet to be resolved.
Eleven defendants from the “Net Nanny Operation” have trial dates scheduled over the next several months, while the case against another man is on hold as he undergoes a mental health evaluation at Eastern State Hospital.
The whereabouts of the 13th defendant is unknown since he bailed out and left the United States for 2 1/2 weeks to travel throughout the Middle East. He is wanted on a nationwide warrant with $500,000 bail.
Detectives posed as parents and kids over the five-day operation in July 2017 and either posted or responded to online advertisements for people interested in having sex with children.
The postings generated thousands of responses, but authorities only arrested the would-be perpetrators who actually traveled to a designated apartment or another location.
The suspects nabbed in the multi-agency effort ranged in age from 20 to 70, with 22 of them living in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland.
Hoped for ‘a little fun’
The most recent case to wrap up was last week, with a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for a now-21-year-old man who placed an online ad offering his home to “ladys” in the hopes of having a little fun.
James C. Escobedo Jr. was sentenced in Benton County Superior Court for his guilty pleas to attempted second-degree child molestation and felony communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
In his plea statement, Escobedo said he sent “messages and photos regarding sexual content to what I believe was a minor. I discussed her staying at my home in exchange for sex and went to pick her up, which was a substantial step.”
He initially was charged with attempted second-degree child rape.
Competency questioned twice
Escobedo’s case was delayed a number of times over the past 21 months while he twice underwent treatment at the state psychiatric facility in Medical Lake.
The Kennewick man posted on Craigslist in July 2017 that he would “give any girl a place to stay in exchange for me.”
A detective responded as a 13-year-old runaway looking for a “daddy.” Escobedo initially told her that 13 was too young for sex, but continued to chat with her and sent two nude pictures, according to court documents.
He agreed to pick up the teen and take her to his home for sex, and followed instructions to the meeting spot, documents said.
Escobedo told a community corrections officer for a presentencing report that he made a “poor choice” and had a “pathetic moment in life,” and said he was “glad it is coming to an end.’