A group is working to get child predators off the street.
Anthony Figueroa, 59, thought he was meeting with a 14-year-old girl in Azusa. But he had no idea he had been communicating with a decoy from the citizen group Creep Catching Unit, also known as the CC Unit.
"I went on to these social forums, these chat rooms, these online websites and I posed as a 13-year-old girl and boom! This guy hits me up," explained Ghost, the man behind the CC Unit.
For security reasons, the CC Unit founder couldn't give his real name. Men from all walks of life looking to have sex with minors end up on Ghost's YouTube channel.
Ghost caught an alleged child predator at a location in Mentone, an area in San Bernardino County.
"Can you tell me the plan?" Ghost asked Minel Leland Nash, who arrived in Mentone to meet a 14-year-old boy.
"We were gonna chill… smoke… and have sex and then sleep," Nash told Ghost on-camera.
Ghost says he's busted everyday people.
"I've caught pastors before. I've caught military. I've caught Disneyland workers, and youth ministers," he explained. "We have decoys, we have editors, we have security, we have camera crew, we have moderators."
Ghost adds that it's a "whole sting operation."
When a meeting is scheduled – the CC Unit calls the local police department. They turn over all the evidence, including chat logs, text messages and pictures.
"We give a full rundown of the sting, so we give a description of the suspect. 'Hey, this guy's 50 years old. He's a white male or Hispanic or Black,' whatever. He's coming out to meet with what he thinks is a 13-year-old," Ghost said.
Arrests have been made all over Southern California, including Azusa, Glendale, Santa Monica, San Bernardino and other cities. The CC Units have received credit from local law-enforcement departments, including the Riverside County Sheriff's Office, via press releases.
Other departments, however, have had a history of refusing to get involved with groups like the CC Unit.
"A lot can go wrong," said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney.
The longtime prosecutor says the CC Unit has an element of vigilante justice, and many in law enforcement don't want private citizens getting involved in police work.
"It's perfectly understandable to me why some law enforcement agencies don't want anything to do with partnering with these groups, because all it will take is one catastrophic outcome, and that law enforcement agency will be blamed for encouraging that behavior," McKinney said.
"What are the legal problems when it comes to dealing with this type of case being handled by citizens?" asked FOX 11's Gina Silva.
"I'd be interested in looking at whether or not the target went far enough to commit an attempted felony and to commit an attempted felony, the person would have to have the intent to commit a sexual act and also take a direct step toward doing that. It has to go beyond mere planning and preparation," McKinney said.
This appears to be the case because the men did show up to meet a minor.
"Do you know that what you did was illegal? Why did you do you it anyway?" Ghost asked.
"I'm stupid," Figueroa, a former school janitor, said.
Nash is now a registered sex offender following his arrest.
"These people, they know what they're doing. They're the ones who made this decision. They're the ones who like kids in a sexual way. They're the ones who put themselves in this position. So I don't feel any sympathy for these people," Ghost said.