An unusual alliance of international activist groups, Mexican prosecutors and a dog trained to detect memory devices joined forces this month to nab a high-profile suspected pedophile in Mexico City.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — An unusual alliance of international activist groups, Mexican prosecutors and a dog trained to detect memory devices joined forces this month to nab a high-profile suspected pedophile in Mexico City.
First, Free a Girl, a Netherlands-based anti-human trafficking group, informed US-based Operation Underground Railroad activists that Jason Maatman, a Dutchman who advocated openly having sex with children, had traveled to Mexico after fleeing pending court cases. in the Nederlands.
Maatman apparently believed that loose Mexican law enforcement would allow him to operate freely in Mexico City, a sprawling metropolis of 21 million where most crimes go unpunished.
But he wasn’t counting on Hidu, a recent canine academy graduate who teaches dogs to detect triphenylphosphine oxide, or TPPO, a chemical coating used in electronic devices like USB drives and memory cards.
“Three weeks ago we learned that Nelson M. appeared to be active in Mexico and posed a serious danger to children,” said Evelien Hölsken, director of Free a Girl. She said the group contacted the Underground Railroad “and asked if they could open an investigation.”
Maatman was apparently so sure of himself that he spoke openly about his activities on the Internet. But Mexican prosecutors were willing to work with nongovernmental organizations.
Operation Underground Railroad, or OUR, quickly set in motion a plan to lure Maatman into a trap, using the chat rooms and social media spaces he was active on.
“We were able to confirm he was in Mexico and then talk to him in different chat rooms. He said, ‘I’m in some kind of really dangerous run-down area. I don’t want to give you my address. I don’t want to not that you come see me, but you can come meet me at a gas station,” said Matt Osborne, OUR Director of Global Operations.
Mexico City prosecutors were waiting when Maatman showed up at a bus station — near a gas station — on the edge of the city’s main park on June 5.
Prosecutor Ernestina Godoy said Maatman had a gun and several doses of cocaine in her possession.
Maatman is being held in a Mexico City prison for human trafficking and possession of drugs and weapons. He does not have a lawyer on file and could not be reached for comment.
“Our understanding was that he was getting offers from other people who wanted to do business with him,” ostensibly to sell or monetize a trove of sexually explicit material involving young children, Osborne said. “He said he needed the money.”
The problem is that he got caught at a bus stop – not at home – and no one knew where he lived. Nobody knew where he might have hidden child pornography, which is usually kept in digital form.
City prosecutors used a network of street surveillance cameras to trace Maatman’s movements to a seedy apartment he was renting in the city’s east side. Tall and red-haired, the Dutchman stood out in this area.
Once the police got a search warrant, that’s when Hidu stepped in; a black lab, he had been trained by Todd Jordan at his Jordan Detection K9 Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana.
TPPO is a chemical used in small semiconductor memory devices to prevent overheating. There is just enough of its distinctive scent for dogs to locate it.
Jordan began by training “accelerator detection” dogs, to search for evidence in possible arson cases in which an accelerator – things like gasoline – could have been used to start a fire.
But the electronic detection dogs he trained – now 83 and counting – have become more in demand because criminals are now using USB drives to store everything from contacts to cryptocurrencies used in drug trafficking.
“I think electronic dogs have now overtaken accelerating dogs simply because they need them, and just because of the way the world is right now,” Jordan said. “These dogs, I mean just everyone, every internet crime task force could use one.”
Hidu was brand new to work; he had graduated two weeks prior and this was his first case – In fact, this was the first overseas case that one of Jordan’s dogs had dealt with.
Operation Underground Railroad transported Hidu and his handler to Mexico City, where prosecutors were about to search the apartment.
“From what I understood, there was a cell phone hidden in a laundry basket with terribly rancid laundry, you know, dirty clothes in a corner that no one would go into,” Osborne said. “The dog found this phone.”
Hidu found more child pornography pasted on a wall under a painting, Osborne said. “The dog sniffed a few hard drives in a few places in his apartment that are hard for humans to find, but the dog sniffed it.”
Prosecutors said the drives and devices contained approximately 4 terabytes of child pornography images.
Godoy, the prosecutor, credited Operation Underground Railroad and Hidu for helping with the bust.
“The message is clear for those who attack a girl, a boy or a teenager: in Mexico City, there will be no place for impunity, and those who harm or target them will be found, judged. and doomed,” Godoy said.
But questions remained. “Why hasn’t he (Maatman) been placed on an international wanted list?” by Dutch authorities, Hölsken said.