A 29-year-old Bluffton man was arrested earlier this week after driving about three hours in the hope of having sex with an underage girl he met on the Internet, according to investigators.
Edward Joseph Kestler of Baywood Drive was arrested Monday by the Lexington County Sheriff's Department and charged with one count of criminal solicitation of a minor and one count of attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
Investigators say Kestler solicited sex from an undercover Lexington County Sheriff's deputy who posed an as underage girl on the Internet. The deputy was undergoing Internet predator training from S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster's office, according to a news release Friday from the office.
The Lexington County Sheriff's department is part of McMaster's 50-agency Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Kestler arranged to meet the girl at a predetermined location in Lexington County and was arrested by Lexington County Sheriff's deputies and officers from the Town of Chapin Police Department. Police searched Kestler's vehicle and recovered a laptop computer and a removable drive as evidence, according to authorities.
The age of the girl Kestler believed he was meeting was redacted by police from arrest warrants. He was charged with second-degree attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, which the state defines as sexual battery against someone between 11 and 14 years old.
Kestler was released Wednesday from the Lexington County Detention Center on $50,000 bond, according to the Lexington County Sheriff's Department.
He faces 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted. The attorney general's office will prosecute Kestler's case.
An April 2007 arrest for assault and battery is Kestler's only prior arrest in Beaufort County, according to the county's online jail log.
Kestler's arrest was the 178th for the task force, which was created in April 2004 to develop a network of state and local agencies to investigate and prosecute Internet child sexual exploitation.
"We know that we have put a dent in this problem just by the sheer number of arrests we've made," said Mark Plowden, spokesman for the attorney general's office. "But we know that for every one that we catch, there are hundreds out there. There is never any loss of perverts on the Internet looking for children. It's a tremendous problem."