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Indian 'net predator' in US faces hearing on Friday

A 30-year-old Indian engineer faces preliminary hearing on Friday on charges of soliciting sex from a minor via the Internet while US authorities, citing his case, have warned parents to be on the watch for online predators.

world Updated: Jul 24, 2009 21:48 IST

A 30-year-old Indian engineer faces preliminary hearing on Friday on charges of soliciting sex from a minor via the Internet while US authorities, citing his case, have warned parents to be on the watch for online predators.

Nityanand Gopalika, a native of Purnia in Bihar, India, and alumnus of DPS Bokaro and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, working for a leading American multinational organisation, was arrested with four others on charges of using the Internet to sexually proposition what they believed were 13- and 14-year-old girls in Pennsylvania.

Gopalika was preliminarily arraigned on July 1 and lodged in the Butler County Jail in lieu of $15,000 cash bail, pending a preliminary hearing on July 24.

In all five cases, "the defendants approached undercover agents in Internet chat rooms - rapidly moving the conversation to sexual topics, including graphic descriptions of the sex acts they wish to engage in," Tom Corbett, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, said.

"Parents need to understand that online conversations can quickly escalate to include sexually graphic discussions or plans for face-to-face meetings, and that predators will travel as far as necessary if they believe they have found a vulnerable child," he said.

Corbett said that Gopalika allegedly used an Internet chat room to approach what he believed was a 13-year-old girl from the Pittsburgh area. The "girl" was actually an undercover agent from the Child Predator Unit.

According to the criminal complaint, Gopalika engaged in a series of chats over the next several days, questioning the "girl" about her sexual experience and describing the sex acts he wished to engage in.

Gopalika is also accused of sending the "girl" two webcam videos that showed him nude or masturbating in front of his computer.

He was arrested on July 1 when he arrived at a predetermined meeting location in Cranberry Township, Butler County. Following a search of his vehicle, agents seized two laptop computers, a digital camera, a cell phone allegedly containing a partially completed text message to the "child", directions to the meeting location and a bag of condoms.

The attorney general's Child Predator Unit has arrested 226 online predators since it was created in January 2005.