ALTON - An Alton officer known for nabbing online sexual predators received a state honor last week for his part in an investigation resulting in federal charges against three alleged child molesters.
A fourth suspect also faces state charges related to the case.
Pfc. Mike Bazzell, 33, the Alton Police Department's information technology officer, was one of four authorities recognized Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in Oak Brook Terrace.
The release says Bazzell got his award "for his ability to look beyond what appeared as a routine custody battle into a world where parents abuse their children online. Bazzell investigated a recent case where two female children said that they were being sexually exploited over the Internet. Because of Bazzell's actions, six children were rescued, four adults were arrested, and the investigation is ongoing."
Bazzell, who did undercover work in person, declined to say much about the case because the investigation is continuing and more people may be charged. The case involved people in Alton, as well as in other areas of Illinois and Indiana.
"They (allegedly) molested their own children and allowed other people to molest their children," Bazzell said. "It's great to receive recognition, but our real motivation to do these cases is to protect children. It was a surprise, and I appreciate receiving this award."
In October of last year, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in East St. Louis filed charges against the three suspects following indictments by a grand jury: Louise H. Masulla of New Athens, Tabitha D. Robinson of Midlothian and William M. Milligan of Bloomington, Ind.
Federal authorities charged the three suspects with conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity sometime between July 22 and Aug. 10, 2008.
Authorities said the trio agreed, while being in Alton, to take a minor under the age of 18 across state lines to engage in sexual activity. The suspects allegedly involved in a sexual encounter in an Indiana hotel room with victims ages 11 and 3.
Masulla also was charged with aggravated sexual abuse; allegedly crossing a state line with intent to engage in a sex act with a minor under the age of 12; and with transportation of child pornography for allegedly transporting a "visual depiction in interstate or foreign commerce."
Milligan also was charged with receipt of child pornography.
The investigation began as a result of a report made to Alton police regarding criminal sexual conduct involving a child and activities occurring in Internet chat rooms.
The case evolved after police seized a computer during Masulla's arrest on state charges of six counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, which preceded the federal charges. A New Athens man, Stephen G. Recker, also faced those same state charges.
Sullivan last fall had said those assaults had taken place at a residence on Oscar Street in Alton where Masulla and Recker had been staying.