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Jefferson County internet crime unit, CHEEZO, forced to stop undercover operations

Ethics complaint prompted decision
Posted at 5:05 PM, Dec 16, 2016

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. --- A crime investigation unit created to stop internet luring and exploitation of children is suspending undercover operations after an ethics complaint, Denver7 confirmed Friday.

A spokesperson for the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office said the complaint against the unit, known as CHEEZO, centers around ethics concerns.

People going undercover online worked for the district attorney's office and pretended to be children. However, ethics rules state that members of the district attorney's office cannot engage in any deceit.

"Nothing was found to be inappropriate with that the only problem is that they received a DA paycheck," said First Judicial District Attorney Pete Weir.

Weir believes the Attorney Regulation Council is using a narrow interpretation of the law and there should be an exception for law enforcement.

The CHEEZO unit has arrested a total of 924 online sex predators since the program’s inception in 2005, according to its website. So far in 2016, 57 arrests have been made.

"As a result of this, I'm afraid kids are going to get hurt and that does upset me, I'm very distraught over that," said Weir.

The complaint was filed by the attorney for a child sex predator who was busted in 2011 by the CHEEZO unit.

The attorney asked the Attorney Regulation Council to investigate the possible ethics violations. An investigation was launched last year and the DA's office decided to take action when it received word the council was proceeding with a formal complaint.

The shutdown only affects undercover activities. The unit will still be go into schools to educate children about online safety. Three full-time investigators and one part-time employee are part of the unit.

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