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Monday, May 25 12:00 AM ET

Dateline NBC Cracks Down On
Online D & D Child Predators

By Matt Roffman

Ft. Meyers, FL - Dateline NBC has gone on the offensive against online Dungeons and Dragon's Child Predators in its new three-part series "To Catch a Gamer".

In conjunction with police and the watchdog group "Introverted-Justice" (I.J. for short), Dateline has set up a sting operation where I.J. members pose as minors on internet chat rooms. They set up underage profiles and behave normally but it doesn't take long for predators to start asking the children inappropriate questions.

Invariably, these conversations gravitate toward setting up a meeting between Gamer and "minor." The gamer heads to a house where he thinks the minor is alone for the evening, but it is actually Dateline's special sting house. Coming inside, an I.J. member speaks to them from another room but when it's time for the gamer to meet the minor instead they are greeted by Dateline reporter Chris Hansen.

Hansen is stern with the gamer, "why don't you just have a seat at that gaming table there." He then starts discussing the gamer's plans for the evening such as he did with gamer Chris Charlentola.

Hansen: "So, what brings you out here tonight?"
Charlentola: "Oh, I was just coming out to talk to the youngster. Maybe watch a movie with him."
Hansen: "You had no plans to play Dungeons and Dragons?"
Charlentola: "No. I just wanted to help a lonely kid in need."
Hansen: "Well we have transcripts from your online discussion. You say you and he could 'go all night playing'."
Charlentola: "Um."
Hansen: "You also ask him. 'Have you ever been an Elf thief' and comment 'I fantasize about playing against Elf thieves all the time'."
Charlentola: "It's just a question. It doesn't mean anything."
Hansen: "It was clearly identified that you were talking to a minor. Do you think this is appropriate subject matter to discuss with a 13-year old boy."
Charlentola: "Probably not. But it wasn't going to lead anywhere."
Hansen: "Well, I'd be more inclined to believe you if you hadn't shown up at this house tonight."

To help prove intent, gamers will often be asked to bring certain items to the house during a D&D charged exchange. Such was the case with Chris Dodds, who was asked to bring gaming paraphernalia. Dodds denied it during his interveiw with Hansen.

Hansen: Did you bring anything with you?
Dodds: No.
Hansen: No players guides?
Dodds: No.

Later, when police searched Dodds car, they found a dungeon master's guide and 20 sided die. This will help the courts prove that Dodds did indeed have plans to consummate a D&D game with a minor.

Some gamers were so embarrassed by the association with Dungeons and Dragons that they invented elaborate stories to cover their guilt. The worst of these was Kenneth Brenah of Coral Gables.

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Brenah: "I swear, I wasn't here to play D&D. I... I... was trying to have sex with a minor. That's all. Arrest me for that if you like but please don't tell my wife that I like Dungeons and Dragons."

Once the conversation with Hansen ends the gamer is allowed to leave the house where police immediately arrest them for solicitation of a minor with intent to role play. This Dateline series has exposed the seedy underbelly of Dungeons and Dragons. The amazing thing is that gamers keep falling for it despite repeated television airings.

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