MIT Researcher Busted In Online Sex Sting

Man traveled to Colorado for tryst with underage girls


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MIT Postdoc Bust

APRIL 2--After arranging a sexual tryst with a woman and her two minor daughters, a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week flew to Colorado, where he was arrested by federal agents who had ensnared him in an undercover sting.

Yaron Segal, 30, was busted by Department of Homeland Security agents after arriving Wednesday in Grand Junction. He was charged with a pair of felonies, including “traveling with intent to engage in a sexual act with a person under 12.” That count carries a minimum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Segal, an Israeli citizen, began working at MIT last year after completing his doctorate at Yale University’s applied physics department. Pictured at right, Segal is currently in federal custody, and prosecutors are seeking his pre-trial detention, according to a U.S. District Court filing.

The probe of Segal began in early-February when a female undercover agent encountered him in a pair of Internet Relay Chat rooms whose titles included the phrases “childslavesex” and "ChildRapeTortureBrutality.” The agent claimed to be the mother of two girls, one 16-years-old, and a second child under the age of 12.

After exchanging some personal information with the undercover (UC) agent, Segal “immediately turned the conversation to sex, and indicated that he wanted to have sexual intercourse with the UC persona and both of her children.” In a subsequent chat, he told the agent of his willingness to travel to Colorado from Massachusetts to have sex with the woman and her children. “i could definitely drop by for a weekend,” he wrote, according to a federal complaint sworn by Vanessa Hipps, the DHS agent who worked in the undercover capacity.

Over the following weeks, Segal continued to “chat via IRC, email, text and Yahoo Chat” with the undercover agent about having sex with her and her children. “A majority of the chats were very sexually explicit,” Hipps reported. During these chats, Segal sent the undercover explicit photos and videos of himself.

In one late-February e-mail, Segal included links to “some Amazon web pages advertising a strap-on dildo and vibrator and indicated the children he wanted to buy them for.” In a March 10 phone conversation, Segal said that he would bring “a dildo, small vibrator for the youngest child” when he flew to Colorado. When Hipps asked why he spoke with an accent, Segal--who identified himself as “Ron”--“indicated that he was originally from Israel.”

On March 16, Segal e-mailed the undercover agent a photo of the sex toys he had purchased on Amazon. “Got the toys,” he wrote, “those are some big cocks.”

On Wednesday, Hipps, acting in her undercover capacity, met Segal in the baggage claim area of the Grand Junction airport. In short order, he was arrested and his name appeared on a two-count felony complaint and arrest warrant.

Segal works in MIT’s Photovoltaic Research Laboratory, where he is “looking into novel ways to passivate Si surfaces that can reduce costs in the PV fabrication process,” according to the university’s web site. At Yale, Segal “studied epitaxial semiconductor-oxide interfaces.”

A call to Segal’s lab was answered by a coworker who appeared unaware of her colleague’s legal troubles. “Yaron’s on vacation,” she said. “I think he’s camping.” (4 pages)