By: E&P Staff
A reporter for the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., was arrested Sunday in a Philadelphia suburb for allegedly soliciting sexual bondage acts from an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.
Stephen Sembrat, 47, was charged on July 31 with deviant sexual assault and related counts. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for August 9 and his bail has been set at $250,000, but Sembrat could be released from jail after posting 10% of the amount.
In addition to his job as a newspaper reporter, Sembrat is also president of the Pocono Field Hockey Club for girls ages 14-18.
The arrest affidavit stated that Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division Detective Lisa C. Carroll was posing as a 13-year-old in several chat rooms in March when she received an instant message from ?Doom5888.? He identified himself as ?Steve,? a 37-year-old man, and asked if she had ever been ?tied up.? She responded that she didn’t understand the question.
According to The Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Penn.), Sembrat asked to meet her at the end of the conversation, which the detective refused.
A second conversation proved to be relatively harmless, but in a third chat on June 6, Sembrat asked again about bondage, explained how it worked, and said that he’d done it to a 12-year-old girl he met ?at the shore? using her bathing suit.
Carroll was able to identify Doom5888 by contacting AOL. The two continued to talk online and on July 25 Sembrat explained in detail the acts he hoped to perform with the girl. Carroll gave him no definitive answer about whether she would consent.
But soon after, Carroll agreed to meet Sembrat at 2:30 p.m. on July 31 and then go to a hotel with him.
The newspaper reported that Sembrat admitted to having the name ?Doom5888? upon his arrest. He also admitted to having another screen name, ?dani090990,? which he reportedly used to pose as a 14-year-old girl interested in bondage.
When police searched his car, they found a digital camera, a box of condoms, ropes, duct tape, white socks (which police believe were to be used as gags), two bondage magazines, and various bondage photographs, the newspaper reported.
Sembrat reportedly admitted to police that the items were to be used on the 13-year-old girl.
Sembrat is the second reporter accused of soliciting sex from an undercover officer posing as a minor in the past few weeks.
Noel Neff, a former editor with the Weekly Reader in Stamford, Conn., was arrested July 9 in an FBI sting in which he thought he going to meet and have sex with a 14-year-old boy he met online.
Neff has pleaded innocent and remains free on a $25,000 bond.