Online vigilantes nab another child predator in Valpo | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

VALPARAISO — An area vigilante group has nabbed yet another man accused of approaching what he thought was a child online and then trying to meet up in Valparaiso for sex.

“If I go to jail I go to jail,” Thomas Gobin, 27, of Valparaiso, reportedly said in a message to the “girl” as the two readied to meet Friday.

The 13-year-old girl turned out to be a member of the NWI predator catchers group and Gobin was taken into custody by Valparaiso police.

He was charged Tuesday with two felony counts of child solicitation, the more serious count carrying a potential prison term of two to 12 years, records show.

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The arrest mirrors two others carried out in Valparaiso in September as the vigilante approach continues to be popular, often accompanied by videos of the confrontations posted online. The civilian-driven approach is also being taken more seriously by law enforcement and prosecutors.

Valparaiso police said they were contacted early Saturday about a “suspicious” incident involving a man attempting to meet up with a 13-year-old girl for sex, according to a court document.

The incident began around 4:10 a.m. Wednesday when Hammond police were notified by its license plate recognition system of a stolen U-Haul in the city, police said.

A member of the NWI predator catchers group reportedly told police he posed as a 13-year-old girl on the Grindr dating app and was approached online by a man later identified a Gobin.

The group representative provided police with messages he exchanged with Gobin beginning Feb. 2. Gobin, who sent a selfie-style photo of himself, asked the “girl’s” age and was told she was 13, police said.

When asked why he was on the dating app, Gobin replied, “Fwb (friends with benefits) but I am to old and ur jail trap,” according to police.

When questioned about the term “jail trap,” he reportedly replied, “Yea I can go to jail.”

Gobin reportedly said he was 28.

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The dispute continued in the parking lot where Tryton Brewer grabbed a handgun from a vehicle and shot it in the direction of bar patrons and staff, police said.

The conversation then resumes Feb. 12 and again two days later when they again exchanged ages, police said.

On Thursday, Gobin attempted to arrange to meet the person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, a court document says. His efforts continued Friday with yet another question about the girl’s age.

“If only ur 16 lol,” he allegedly wrote.

When asked why he made the comment, Gobin responded, “Age of consent in Indiana is 16,” according to police.

Gobin is accused of asking the girl for sex as they made plans late Friday to meet in Valparaiso.

Gobin reportedly told police he first believed the girl to be 20, but later learned she was underage, police said. He said the two continued communicating “as friends” and with no sexual content.

“Thomas then stated that he was fully aware that if he and the female were to do anything more than a normal conversation that he could go to jail,” a charging document says.

He later admitted to making a mistake and was presented with the sexual comments he made to what he thought was an underage girl, police said.

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