Top UH professor arrested in online enticement sting
Offline, he was Marc Fossorier, a highly regarded University of Hawaii professor hailed as an "international star" in communications and coding.
Prosecutors now accuse him of being online persona peile44, whom they accuse of trying to seduce a fictional 15-year-old girl.
Fossorier yesterday pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree electronic enticement of a child. Fossorier was arrested Monday after an arranged meeting between him and undercover agents.
University of Hawaii officials have declined to comment on the case. Fossorier, who received his doctorate from UH, has been a faculty member since 1996. He is now a professor in the electrical engineering department.
Using the screen name peile44, Fossorier allegedly began his online chats with an undercover agent on April 23, according to court documents.
The agent assumed the persona of a 15-year-old girl attending Pearl City High School. There were numerous chats between the two, which became increasingly sexual in nature, documents allege. Fossorier allegedly stated in chats that he wanted to have sex with the undercover persona.
On Oct. 24, they both agreed to meet at the Pearl Kai McDonald's at 1 p.m. Fossorier said he would be wearing a black shirt and jeans and would arrive in a gray Honda CRV.
Fossorier also sent a photo of himself wearing a black shirt and jeans. Later that day, Fossorier was seen in the restaurant, looking for someone and leaving, documents say.
On Monday, the two agreed again to meet that morning at the McDonald's, where he was later arrested, documents say.
If convicted, Fossorier could face a 10-year prison sentence and be required to register as a sexual offender. He is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
In 1998, Fossorier received the National Science Foundation Career Award, given to promising young faculty.
In 2002, he was given the UH Board of Regents Medal for Excellence in Research. Last year, he received the school's IEEE Fellow Award for his contributions to coding and decoding methods.
"I was trying to help the girl," Fossorier told KHNL television while the police escorted him to a cellblock. "I was trying to meet her and say that what she was doing was wrong."
Deputy Attorney General Kristin Izumi-Nitao said Fossorier would not have been charged if the prosecution did not believe there was an implicit agreement to engage in sexual activity.
Investigators may follow up with search warrants to look into possible past incidents, Izumi-Nitao said.
"It's hard to say at this point in time whether there were in this case," she said.
Since it was formed in 2004, there have been 22 arrests made under the Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. There have been 12 convictions, with other cases still pending, Izumi-Nitao said.