Computer sleuths ply Internet

Wednesday, 24 December 2003, 12:32 AM EST

A 13-year-old girl sat at a computer in Orangeburg, making arrangements to have sex with an older man from Charleston. At least that's what the man thought.

When he arrived at the appointed place in Orangeburg, it was not a young girl who met him. It was the law.

The "girl" was actually an agent at the South Carolina Computer Crime Center. The center, which brings together state and federal cyber crime experts, is one-year-old this month. And business is booming.

"It is just growing exponentially, said Neal Dolan, the state's top Secret Service officer. "We bring guys in from around the country for a week at a time to catch us up."

The center had worked 263 cases through November, said Lt. Chip Johnson, supervisory special agent for the State Law Enforcement Division, who oversees day-to-day operations. In the process, investigators sorted through 5.8 terabytes of information, he said, or the equivalent of 5,800 sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

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