The beat goes on for the cyber crimes unit of the Independence Police Department. An investigation by the unit into a former state fire marshal’s use of the Internet to attempt to entice a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity has led to a federal prison stint for the man.

The beat goes on for the cyber crimes unit of the Independence Police Department.

An investigation by the unit into a former state fire marshal’s use of the Internet to attempt to entice a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity has led to a federal prison stint for the man.

Lee E. Johnson, 49, of Warrensburg, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court by U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Before his arrest, Johnson was a fire investigator with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, Missouri Department of Public Safety.

 According to court documents, Johnson pleaded guilty Aug. 21, admitting that he engaged in an online chat Jan. 27 with an undercover law enforcement officer, who identified himself as a 13-year-old girl. The officer was a member of the Independence Police Department’s cyber crimes unit.

“To get a child predator off the street is the whole goal of the unit,” said Cyber Crimes Unit Capt. Dan Cummings.

Johnson was arrested by Independence police officers in front of his residence Jan. 30 after being followed from Warrensburg High School, where he had been watching a freshman girls basketball game alone. Court documents state police officers approached Johnson’s vehicle, placed him at gunpoint and ordered him to put up his hands. Johnson initially complied and put his hands up, but soon began lowering his right hand down toward his side out of view as if he might be reaching for a weapon.

Johnson was pulled out of the vehicle and handcuffed behind his back, and a loaded Glock handgun was recovered from the back of his waistband, court documents state.

Johnson’s plea was the second in less than a week as a result of a cyber crimes unit investigation. Last week, Ethan D. Handel, 29, of Marshall, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Handel, a former sports and weather announcer for KMMO Radio in Marshall, pleaded guilty in April to using the Internet to attempt to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity.

“That’s the primary focus of our job,” Cyber Crimes Unit Sgt. Kevin Freeman said of the recent cases. “I can honestly say that the unit has a true satisfaction for what they do because the people that they put in jail are people that are interested in hurting children.”

Freeman said the unit is a part of Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice initiative launched nationally in 2006. The project aims to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children. An Internet Crimes Against Children grant funds the Independence Cyber Crimes Unit, Freeman said.

The ICAC program is a national network of 59 regional task forces funded by the Justice Department to investigate computer-facilitated child sexual exploitation. According to the DOJ, in fiscal year 2007, investigations by task forces nationwide resulted in more than 2,350 arrests.

“To see one of these people sentenced in one of our cases and get a lot of jail time means that individual cannot harm a child while he is in prison,” Freeman said.