O.C. Firm's Cell Phone Software Nails Sex Predators


Newport Beach company's product is being used by Colorado investigator to preserve text messages from adults seeking sex with children.

ANDREW GALVIN, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — Software from a Newport Beach company has helped lead to 43 arrests of alleged sex predators in Jefferson County, Colo., an investigator there said.

The software, called My Mobile Watchdog®, lets parents monitor calls and text messages their kids send and receive on cell phones. Since March, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office has used My Mobile Watchdog® to preserve evidence of calls and texts from adults seeing sex with children.

Mike Harris, senior investigator in the office's Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations Unit, regularly goes online in the persona of a teenage girl or boy. Adults, usually men, make contact and often suggest moving the conversation to cell phones, he said.

"These guys are pretty blunt sometimes" – they'll say "'Hey I like young girls …I'd like to meet for sex … let's text this instead of being online'," Harris said. "More and more of these guys want to get on the phone and get off the computer."

That's because many predators know that evidence of cell phone communications has been more difficult to preserve than online chats and e-mails, he said. My Mobile Watchdog allows Harris to dramatically reduce the time spent preserving evidence. The software enables him to print out, from his computer, a record of all text messages to and from a suspect. Previously, Harris had to take photos of text messages or have someone transcribe them by hand.

"I exchanged over 358 text messages with a suspect in just two days," he said. "In the past it would have been a nightmare to document and preserve all that communication."

In one recent case, which resulted in a guilty plea, Alexander Villamil, 51, of Colorado Springs, sent several text messages to a child persona's cell phone. These messages "contained communications of wanting to meet for sex and having sexual contact with the child," according to an arrest affidavit filed by Harris.

Villamil, who also sent several explicit photos of adults engaged in sexual activity, was arrested after he went to an apartment to meet with the child persona, the affidavit said.

The software is available to parents for about $10 a month from eAgency Inc., said Bob Lotter, CEO of the Newport Beach company and inventor of My Mobile Watchdog® (mymobilewatchdog.com).

Lotter said the company's strategy is to eventually offer the software through cell phone carriers, which could pick up all or part of the cost. My Mobile Watchdog® is not spyware – it alerts the child that all calls and texts are being monitored, Lotter said.

eAgency has been in talks with local law enforcement agencies, including the Orange County Sheriff's Department, about using the software, which eAgency would provide for free, as it does to Jefferson County, Lotter said. John McDonald, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, declined to comment about any talks with eAgency.

Including the 43 arrests aided by My Mobile Watchdog, Jefferson County officials have arrested 83 alleged sex predators this year, Harris said. That's up from 68 last year and 48 in 2006.

"I've had guys send me picture of their bodies, their erect penises – these idiots are just crazy," Harris said. "And they also do this with the kids."

Parents who install the My Mobile Watchdog on their kids' cell phones can be immediately notified via their own phones when such messages or pictures are sent.

"If you see a picture come over of an erect penis, you're going to be immediately taking some action to keep your kiddo safe," Harris said.