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CMU computer expert nabbed in Internet sex sting

Saturday, August 23, 2003

By Rebekah Scott, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A 26-year-old Internet security expert at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute was charged yesterday with arranging to have sex with a 15-year-old girl he met online. The "girl," however, turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Ian Finlay of Shadyside was arrested yesterday morning outside a McDonald's restaurant in Hempfield.

State police said Finlay arranged via e-mail messages and cell phone calls to have sex with a 15-year-old Latrobe girl named Kelly. The two met in July in a Yahoo online chat room and were to have their first sexual encounter yesterday.

But "Kellygirl_2000" was really Officer Robert Jones, a Greensburg police officer trying out Internet detection skills he learned in a five-day summer workshop at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Finlay was charged with 10 counts of unlawful contact with a minor, one count of attempting to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and one count of attempted statutory sexual assault. Greensburg District Justice Mark Mansour sent him to Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of $150,000 cash bond.

CMU spokesman Bill Pollak said Finlay is part of the CERT Coordination Center, a federally funded operation that studies Internet vulnerabilities and provides incident response to viruses and other problems. He would not say if the arrest compromised institutional security or what job Finlay holds there.

"CMU is cooperating fully with law enforcement," he said, confirming that Allegheny County police yesterday seized Finlay's office computer. An affidavit filed with the district justice said police also seized equipment from Finlay's home.

State police Lt. Robert Weaver said Finlay had no prior criminal record and was "totally surprised but cooperative" when officers surrounded his car at about 8:45 a.m. He was speaking with an undercover female officer on his cell phone as he pulled into the parking lot.

"He was expecting to meet this 15-year-old female, and instead we arrested him," Weaver said.

Police records show Finlay befriended "Kelly" with details of his personal life and photos of his pet cat and ferret, himself and his wife. His e-mails were "pretty explicit sometimes," Weaver said.

"We tried to be as naive as possible, to express fear and plenty of second thoughts," the officer said. "There were a total of 55 messages exchanged."

According to the affidavit, Finlay wrote "your parents can never find out either, or they would kill me," and "this IS illegal, right?" When asked point-blank by the supposed girl what he thought of the possibility, he said, "It sounds totally awesome to me, but it makes me really nervous."

Finlay drove his wife's Honda to the meeting, and told the "girl" in advance to buy condoms at a nearby discount store on her way to their meeting.


Rebekah Scott can be reached at rscott@post-gazette.com or 724-836-2655.

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