Glen Westberg scrolled through dozens of online photos, wrote to several people he thought looked good and, when the time came, even showed up early for his date.
Trouble was Westberg was Internet dating by using the new online Megan's Law database and trying hook up with another convicted sex offender, authorities said.
Westberg, whose criminal record includes lewd and lascivious acts with a child and using force to commit lewd and lascivious acts against a child, is a former San Mateo County resident who now lives in Cupertino. He was cited Thursday for illegally using the site and released.
The Web site, unveiled by the state Department of Justice on Dec. 15, contains the names and photos of some 63,000 people required to register in California as sex offenders. Specific home addresses are listed for more than half of them.
The Web site is intended as a tool for the public to help protect their families against sexual predators. Any registered sex offender who enters the Web site can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a $1,000 fine, six months in county jail, or both.
Authorities learned of Westberg's Internet activity from a sex offender registered in San Mateo County who got a letter from Westberg telling him he was "cute" and asking him for a date, said Bill Ahern, commander of the county's Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement, or SAFE, task force. Westberg allegedly told the man he saw his picture on the Megan's Law site, encouraged him to look at Westberg's picture and talked about his physique and the size of his genitals.
"The victim was so alarmed by this he couldn't believe it," Ahern said. "He thought maybe someone was trying to get him in trouble."
The man contacted his probation officer, who put him in contact with SAFE. Westberg was arrested after police set up a fake meeting between him and the man at Sequoia station in Redwood City, Ahern said.
Officers, who pulled up in their cars early to get ready for the sting, were surprised to see Westberg was already there.
Ahern said they arranged the meeting because "we wanted to make sure this wasn't some sort of prank."
According to police, he admitted to sending out five letters looking for dates as well as scanning the registry for friends in San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Alameda counties. He was arrested and released, said Ahern, who plans to file the case in Santa Clara County on Monday.
Although critics argued that the new Megan's Law database could be used by sex offenders to network with each other, Westberg is believed to be the first person arrested for trying to contact someone on the site, officials said.
Nathan Barankin, a DOJ spokesman, said it's impossible to police the site and make sure sex offenders aren't using it.
"There really isn't a way to monitor everyone who uses the system," Barankin said. "We thought that would be too violative of people's privacy rights."
Staff writer Amy Yarbrough covers police and public safety. She can be reached at (650) 348-4339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.