Infoseek exec nabbed in sex scandal

Executive VP Patrick Naughton arrested for allegedly using chat and email to solicit undercover agent posing as a 13-year-old girl.

A top executive for one of the Web's biggest sites has been arrested by FBI agents on federal charges for allegedly crossing states lines to solicit sex from a minor.

Patrick Naughton, 34, an executive vice president of Infoseek and Disney's GO Network, was apprehended late Thursday night in Santa Monica, California, after he had arranged to meet a teenage girl who actually turned out to be the creation of an FBI special agent, according to a 17-page criminal complaint and affidavit released by the FBI Saturday.

The affidavit describes, in often lurid detail, about a dozen Internet chats, emails and phone conversations over a seven-month period in which Naughton allegedly tried to meet the girl for the purpose of having sex, even after repeatedly being told her age was 13. Naughton, who resides in Seattle, also engaged in similar chats with a second undercover agent, the FBI filing said.

The document, written by FBI Special Agent Bruce Applin, concludes by saying that Naughton admitted to chatting on numerous occasions with the undercover agents and agreed to a search of his laptop, which contained sexually explicit pictures of children.

Inter-agency operation Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, said Naughton was formally charged with interstate travel with the intention of having sex with a minor. If convicted, Naughton could face up to 15 years in prison under those charges. He was arraigned on Friday and released after posting a $100,000 appearance bond. He faces arraignment 12 October.

By late Sunday evening, neither Naughton, nor his attorneys, could be reached for comment and Infoseek officials had not responded to ZDNN's request for a reaction to the arrest. An Infoseek manager who declined to be named said the company had fired Naughton in the wake of his arrest.

According to SEC documents filed for the fiscal year ending 3 October last year, Naughton was one of Infoseek's most highly compensated executives. In addition to a salary of $183,167 (£113,000), he owned, through options, more than 535,000 shares of the company, an amount worth more than $15 million at the stock's $28.75 closing price Friday. Infoseek, which was acquired by Disney last year, operates the GO Network, consisting of the some of the Web's biggest sites, including ESPN.com, ABCNews.com and Disney Online. Disney Online is the No. 1 most visited site among children and their families on the Internet, according to July statistics from Web market research firm Media Metrix.

Laura Bosley, a spokesperson for the FBI's Los Angeles bureau, said the arrest resulted from the coordinated efforts of federal and local law enforcement authorities working together as part of a Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement -- or SAFE -- Team.

FBI Agent Applin's affidavit details more than a dozen encounters. They began on March 8 after Applin logged into an Internet Relay Chat Channel using a female screen name. "At 3:39 p.m. I received a private message from an individual using the screen name hotseattle. I described myself as a 13-year-old girl from Los Angeles...During the conversation hotseattle said he was interested in meeting in Los Angeles 'sometime' to 'kiss, make out, and play and stuff...' " Applin also describes far more explicit exchanges as part of the chat, which ended more than four hours later.

Other encounters described by the FBI include:

  • A 14 May chat in which hotseattle provided the undercover agent with the address of a Forbes magazine Web site in which he'd been cited, a Seattle telephone number and an email address. "Hotseattle said that he had a digital camera that he could use to make 'any' type of picture I liked."

  • A 21 May chat in which hotseattle said he loved 13-year-old girls. "Hotseattle told me he wanted to get me alone in his hotel room and have me strip naked for him."

  • An 5 August IRC chat in which hotseattle suggested the undercover agent skip school for a day to be with him.

  • An 27 August chat in which hotseattle admitted to confusing the undercover agent with another girl -- who, it turned out, was using the screen name of a second FBI undercover agent. In this exchange, hotseattle also provided a Web site address containing a picture of male genitalia he claimed were his own, along with a picture of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy at 13 -- transmitted to hotseattle by the second FBI agent.

  • A 16 September chat in which someone using the name sfmate attempted to set up a meeting with agent. At the time, sfmate said he also used the screen name hotseattle.

The affidavit also describes two phone calls from the LA County deputy to a number provided by hotseattle to a second undercover agent. The number led to an extension for Patrick Naughton of Infoseek. FBI agents arrested Naughton as he approached the LA County deputy at the Santa Monica pier -- as had been arranged with hotseattle.

Disney named Naughton executive vice president responsible for content and technology for Go Networks in January. He joined Infoseek, based in Sunnyvale, California, after having established a bio that positioned him as something of an industry wunderkind.

He joined Sun Microsystems in 1988, and made his mark as part of the team that created what is now the widespread Java programming language. In 1994, he moved to Starwave, the Seattle-based Web development services company, where he served as president and chief technology officer.

Reuters contributed to this report

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