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Man faces La. charges in online predator sting

two-month undercover online sexual predator investigationconducted by Louisiana authorities resulted in the arrest of aLincoln County man Thursday.

William B. Mercier, 34, of 2783 Highway 51 Southeast, BogueChitto, was arrested at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday afterofficers from the Kenner, La., Police Department, MississippiHighway Patrol, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and theLincoln County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant athis residence.

Mercier is charged with one count of computer-aided solicitationfor sexual purposes and one count of pornography involvingjuveniles.

Kenner Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. WayneMcInnis said two personal computers were removed from Mercier’sresidence during the search. The machines will be sent for furtherinvestigation by a forensic computer examiner.

McInnis said Mercier had been under investigation since April,when he allegedly first initiated contact with what he thought wasa juvenile female from Kenner in an online chatroom. The Louisianagirl was actually a Kenner detective, McInnis said.

“We don’t contact them, they contact us,” McInnis said of hisdepartment’s method of dealing with online predators. “We rely onthem to initiate everything. They make the requests and solicitwhatever it is they’re going to solicit.”

McInnis said the online chat eventually transitioned to phoneconversations at Mercier’s request – he provided his phone number -and the KPD employed special equipment donated by the FederalBureau of Investigation to continue the ruse.

“We have the means (to continue the investigation) on the phonesystem, if they so desire,” McInnis said. “We have different waysof establishing that conversation, whether it’s using a femaleundercover agent or a system to allow us to speak on thephone.”

After being picked up by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Departmentlater in the day Thursday, Mercier – who was not at home at thetime of the morning search – was detained at the Lincoln CountyJail. McInnis said Mercier waived extradition, and Kenner policemenwere scheduled to transport him back to Louisiana sometime Thursdaynight.

Mercier will be interviewed, booked and transferred to theJefferson Parish Correctional Center. McInnis said a bond hearingwould most likely take place Friday.

If convicted on the two pending felony charges, Mercier couldface no less than two years in prison and be required to registeras a sex offender for 15 years. However, McInnis said Mercier’scharges could increase as the investigation goes on.

“There’s a distinct possibility that we may be puttingadditional charges on him from another of our undercover detectiveswho has had previous chats with him,” McInnis said. “We’recurrently trying to determine if there is enough evidence foradditional charges.”