A Tyler, Texas man was arrested earlier this month after attempting to meet young girls online for sex through an online messaging service. While this “predator sting” operation wasn’t done by law enforcement the details of the case were handed over to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. After reviewing the details 67-year-old Newell Vandergriff was arrested and charged, his bond to be released from custody was set at $350,000. 

According to CBS 19, the citizen group that caught the suspect was acting as a decoy to catch predators, they were pretending to be a 13-year-old girl on “Meet24”. They set up a meeting at a Tyler gas station when the suspect arrived and approached who he thought was a 13-year-old and put his arm around her waist and told her to pick out a drink and beef jerky. Vandergriff had also agreed to bring condoms throughout the messages. 

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The Suspect Had Been Caught By This Group Before 

At the gas station one of the members of this citizens group approached Vandergriff who decided to leave quickly, but the group recognized the suspect from a sting that took place in August in Big Sandy. In August, the group was acting as an 11-year-old girl.  

Police Put the Puzzle Together 

The profile picture that Vandergriff was using on the “Meet24” platform matches the driver's license photo from his Pennsylvania driver's license. Those photos also matched up with the surveillance video from the gas station.  

Just like in all criminal cases, the suspect in this case is innocent until proven guilty. 

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