Teen girl in Net chats with Maui man was really agent
By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer
A prosecutor told a federal court jury yesterday that a Maui man chatted with whom he thought was a 15-year-old Wyoming girl named Mandy on the Internet for several months with the expectation that she would arrive at Kahului Airport on Feb. 14, 2002, to have sex with him.
But Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence Tong said "Mandy" turned out to be a federal agent working with the Wyoming attorney general's office as a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
When "Mandy" said she was coming to O'ahu with her grandmother, Thomas Schnepper offered to pay for her plane fare to visit him on Maui and have sex, Tong said.
Agent Flint Waters, a bearded, middle-aged man, testified yesterday said that Schnepper, of Lahaina, chatted with Waters/Mandy for a few months before suggesting that she travel to Hawai'i to have sex with him.
As evidence, Waters brought with him several pages of extremely graphic Internet chatter that he said went on between "Mandy," a fictitious girl he created, and Schnepper, now 38.
But Richard Kawana, Schnepper's lawyer, told the jury the evidence will show that Schnepper realized almost from the very start that he was chatting with an adult and not a 15-year-old girl.
In response to questions from Kawana, Waters acknowledged there is virtually no way for Internet chat room users to verify the age of someone they are communicating with.
Schnepper was arrested after he drove to Kahului Airport to meet the non-existent girl.
Tong said Schnepper was charged with using the Internet to try to induce a minor to have sex with him, sending a picture he knew to be obscene to someone he believed to be less than 16, and trying to use the Internet to send pictures he believed portrayed child pornography to someone under the age of 16.