Ads placed in local magazines two years ago by state law enforcement agents to catch the eye of pedophiles brought 100 replies and sent three men to prison.
Heber Smith, head of the Utah Bureau of Investigations, said he brought the idea of running an undercover sting operation back from a law enforcement conference he attended."SWF (single white female) with children has needs society doesn't understand," the ad read. "Please be discreet."
The idea, Smith said this week during the trial of one of the men who answered the ad, was to identify pedophiles and get them off the streets before they actually harmed any children - or harmed any more than they already had.
Four men, including Timothy Mark West, who was acquitted of two first-degree felonies Friday, were charged locally and two went to prison, Smith said. A fifth man, who is in the Air Force, was sent to a military prison.
But the operation also put out word that the state was looking for pedophiles and was willing to flush them out and punish them, Smith said.
When word of West's arrest June 6, 1996, went out in the news media, some 30 contacts the UBI was working in their operation, called a "charm school" sting by police, cut off communication abruptly, Smith said.
While it was unfortunate the UBI lost contact with them, Smith said he believes the scare put into them may warn them off.
Prosecutor Jim Cope of the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office agreed the sting operation was worthwhile and should be repeated eventually.
"We can't do anything like it now. The word's gotten around in their dirty little underground about what happened," Cope said. "But it sent out the word that we'll take the steps necessary to protect the children of Utah from harm. That's worthwhile."