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Internet luring case second in Fargo in recent weeks

FARGO -- Police arrested a Fargo man over the weekend on suspicion of having sex with a girl under 15 that he met on the Internet.

A similar case came to light last week involving a 14-year-old girl from West Fargo.

Local police departments say it is shockingly easy for authorities to find adults online who want to have sex with minors, but time and resources limit how many investigations they can pursue.

In the latest case, Patrick Wayne Schmitz, 23, 202 6th Ave. N., was arrested after Fargo police searched his residence and seized electronic devices, Sgt. Mark Lykken said.

Schmitz is suspected of meeting a Fargo girl using social Web sites, Lykken said.

The two began a sexual relationship that was discovered when the girl's mother checked her daughter's computer, Lykken said.

"Unfortunately, I think it's going on a lot," said Lykken, adding that parents can help protect their children by making sure home computers are in areas where parents can monitor them.

He warned, however, that young people also use their phones and other devices to connect to the Internet.

Schmitz was in the Cass County Jail on Monday pending an appearance in Cass County District Court.

In another recent case, a 65-year-old from Zimmerman, Minn., was arrested on suspicion of having sex with a 14-year-old West Fargo girl he met on the Internet.

In that case, Robert Francis Blasey faces charges in Cass County District Court of gross sexual imposition and luring a minor by computer. Bail for Blasey was set Monday at $100,000 cash only.

Al Schmidt of the West Fargo Police Department spent three months in 2002 posing as a young person online.

During that time, he said he gathered enough evidence to charge almost two dozen people with luring a minor over the internet.

Since then, however, the department's resources have not allowed officers to devote much time to such investigations, said Sgt. Greg Warren.

"We are in the process of getting a computer forensic person to work this kind of stuff, but the problem is you probably need more than one person to do it. A person gets burned out very easy," Warren said.

"It's pretty ugly stuff," he said, adding that when Schmidt conducted his investigations, he would often be dealing with four or five Internet conversations at the same time.

The West Fargo Police Department wants to organize a task force of some kind using resources from other area departments, but Warren said everyone faces the same challenge - "having people available."

Fargo police have two detectives assigned to luring cases, but they are limited in how many cases they can pursue, Lykken said.

The Moorhead Police Department has some officers who proactively work Internet solicitation cases, said Lt. Tory Jacobson.

Because of time constraints and caseloads, stings are done randomly, Jacobson said.