As much as we appreciate Phillip’s work (and entertainment) he doesn’t exactly look like someone we would leave our kids with his damn self.
“To Catch a Predator” was a series of Dateline internet stings where fake 13-year-old girls and boys would lure would-be statutory rapists to fake houses set up by NBC News. Instead of the promised pre-teens, they’d encounter NBC News correspondent Chris Hansen, who would explore their awfulness and berate them in an interview before sending them out the door and into the arms of awaiting cops.
For a while, it was the best thing NBC had going, beating The Office and matching The Apprentice in ratings in 2006. Then one of the caught predators shot himself in the head while NBC News cameras waited outside his home, and people started to wonder whether reveling in the sickness and criminality of damaged people whose crimes were hypothetical and who wouldn’t have even been there if NBC hadn’t lured them there was really such a good idea. The network pulled the plug in 2008.
The stings were conducted by Perverted Justice, a loosely organized online vigilante outfit founded by a Portland man named Phillip John Eide in 2003. Eide—who changed his name to Xavier von Erck in 2006—and his volunteers initially just documented the predators they caught and exposed them online, but soon they started working with law enforcement and local TV stations. When NBC News took them national, the network paid Perverted Justice more than $100,000 per sting. “Von Erck” was an odd partner for a national news organization—he looked like Kevin Smith, called the civilian victims of al Qaeda “shameless and pathetic” on his blog, and once pretended to be a woman to seduce an online enemy in an attempt to ruin him. All told, NBC News paid him somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 million between 2006 and 2009.
So where the hell did all the money go you ask?
The NBC money dried up sooner than expected, and corporate donors never emerged. In 2009, according to PJFI’s tax return, the group had a whopping $2,148 in income and $10,368 in cash on hand at the end of the year. While Perverted Justice as a group still conducts untelevised stings and claims convictions of predators—their 542nd, they say, was convicted on Tuesday—the foundation is obviously nonfunctional. Its “programs” are little more than apparently defunct web sites—howtodealwithcreepypeople.com, for instance, purports to help teens deal with abuse and hasn’t been updated since 2008. The Perverted Justice Academy, which supposedly trains law enforcement in how to conduct stings on its own, is “conducted online in our own private law enforcement training chat rooms.” Each course lasts an hour.
All told, the Perverted Justice Foundation spent more than $1,202,739 in from 2006 to 2009 in pursuit of its tax-exempt goals. Of that, an astonishing 82%—$984,233—went to salaries. Almost all of it—$783,000—went to “Von Erck,” Kerr, and Shea.
Over the course of four years, the foundation spent just $218,506 on things other than employees. More than $50,000 of that went to “travel and entertainment.” Another $13,766 went to “equipment,” and nearly $29,000 went to “web site.” In other words, “Von Erck” basically set up a nonprofit to accept NBC News’ money and spent it on himself, his friends, and his web site. Rather than use the money to build a long-lasting institution that might help people—or at least spark more pedophile suicides—he blew through it, and now he’s got about ten grand left.
SMH. How are you gonna do all that work for free for years, then get paid big money to do that same job, then fawk up the money???