Investigators tackle computer crimes with help from others

A map that MSP Computer Crimes Unit uses to monitor people by their computer IP addresses that have red flags on them for computer crimes.

An investigation into a Cadillac child porn case began when Google discovered pornographic pictures that were eventually forwarded to the Michigan State Police Computes Crimes Unit. The CCU headquarters in Lansing receives hundreds of these kinds of tips each month that help put cyber criminals behind bars.

According to Detective Wesley Smith who works at the MSP Traverse City Post, Facebook, Craigslist, and Google are the top websites who help find and report concerning material that people engage in on the internet.

"Anything that you view, send, or type in online is out there," said Smith. "Could be very well out there forever."

Smith says website managers can monitor things like conversations between their customers, files, and images that are shared online and when they observe something that sends off a red flag, they report it to the necessary authorities.

Brian Sevrey was arrested last week on five charges including child sexually abusive activity and using a computer to commit a crime. On Wednesday he was transferred from the Wexford County Jail to Grand Rapids where he will face a federal judge on April 28 for arraignment. Investigators say the child involved was under three years old.

Sevrey's accused crimes were discovered by Google who contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The agency then contacted Michigan State Police CCU, and the case was forwarded to Traverse City detectives.

The CCU can also find, track and monitor cyber criminals from their offices using special software that identifies them by their IP address, and the peer-to-peer network they are using to share files.

"Lansing normally gets between 150 to 200 of these cyber tips every month," said Smith. "It just really depends on how many get sent up or get taken care of with a phone call. We probably get 6 or 7 a month from Lansing to this office alone."

CCU can also use local help to catch criminals. Northland Computers in Traverse City repairs, installs, and gets rid of viruses on dozens of computers each week. The technicians say that sometimes they see things the customer wouldn't want them to.

"Our only option is to report it to the authorities," said technician Robert Damer. "We cannot do anything with these files. We can't back them up, we can't transfer them, we can't forward them, we have to leave them as is and notify the authorities of them."

Damer says the business has had to report a few things to authorities in the past and that the customers who were reported were convicted for their crimes.