Tougher enticement law gets its first test
A Nanakuli man, 43, faces at least a year in jail if convicted as an Internet predator
A 43-year-old Oahu man who allegedly used his work computer to try to meet and have sex with a minor will be the first person prosecuted under a tougher state law requiring Internet predators to spend at least one year in jail.
Brian Y. Uejo, an accountant at Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., was arrested outside the McCully-Moiliili Public Library on Wednesday and charged with one count of first-degree electronic enticement of a child, federal and state officials said yesterday.
Authorities said the Nanakuli resident planned to meet with someone he believed was a 15-year-old girl he met online. But the person Uejo had been corresponding with were agents posing as the teenager.
Uejo, who has no criminal record, was arraigned in Honolulu District Court yesterday morning. He was being held on $20,000 bail and has a preliminary hearing set for next week. If convicted, Uejo will spend one year in prison and face a maximum 10-year term. He would also need to register as a sex offender and have his information posted on a government Web site.
The stricter penalties for the crime were approved in the last legislative session. Before the law was amended, most of the 14 people prosecuted in the past three years for the offense have been able to get away with probation, said state Attorney General Mark Bennett, who lobbied lawmakers for the change in the law.
The highest sentence issued by a state judge, he said, was one year of probation, followed by another year in prison.
"This offense had been treated far too leniently," Bennett added, warning that authorities are closely monitoring the Internet for criminals. "You do not know if you are dealing with a child or with us. And if we find you, we'll get you."
Bennett said courts have not been punishing Internet predators more severely because they tend to be first-time offenders with clean backgrounds, but he noted that makes them even more dangerous.
Officials would not go into detail about how they were able to arrest Uejo. They confiscated Uejo's computer from his work and are investigating whether he might have had or tried to have previous meetings with other minors in the past.
Bennett said he is confident that "explicit" police evidence about Uejo's intentions to have sex with a minor "will be more than sufficient to find him guilty."
Bennett said people who want to protect themselves or their children against Internet predators can visit the Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force at www.hicac.com.