A self-proclaimed crime-fighting vigilante has his first conviction.
Justin Perry, who goes by the alias Mr. 17540 online, posed as a 15-year-old girl, exchanged messages with an adult man and then arranged to meet the suspect at Binns park in Lancaster July 19th. Perry said, at the time, the suspect still thought he was a teenage girl. Perry recorded the encounter.
"He was definitely shocked," said Perry.
Police said the suspect, 37-year-old Thomas Wise of Columbia, also thought he was talking to the teenager when he sent 336 messages that prosecutors said discussed sexual history, a relationship between the pair, and that he needed to be “careful because of her age.”
Perry said one message also contained an inappropriate photo.
"Just the stuff he was saying to me was some of the most graphic stuff I ever read," said Perry.
Perry gave police the video and the messages to use as evidence in court.
"I gift wrapped it and handed it to them. Here you go. Merry Christmas. That's everything I have," said Perry.
Wise was found guilty of seven counts including four felonies and three misdemeanors following a nonjury trial Monday in Lancaster County court. Wise was sentenced to time served after he had been in prison for 14 months. Under Megan's Law, Wise must also register his whereabouts with police for the rest of his life.
"If it wasn't for me, people would't even know he was doing something like that," Perry said.
A spokesperson for the Lancaster County District Attorney's office released this statement:
"The evidence provided by the citizen was important, and in fact, a big part of the case we presented at trial. However, law-enforcement strongly discourages this sort of action. Meeting up with a person in what will become a volatile situation presents a dangerous set of circumstances. Best practice would be to contact the police about any information obtained regarding a person perpetrating crimes against children."