By Megan Williamson / Staff Writer

An Indiana man who drove to Barbourville to have sex with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl was instead arrested, according to the Barbourville Police Department.

John Bell, 24, of New Albany, Ind., thought he was chatting with a teenage girl on Yahoo! Messenger since Nov. 24. However, he was actually communicating with an undercover Barbourville city police officer.

Barbourville police Lt. Mike Broughton said it was only a matter of days before Bell, a University of Louisville graduate, began making sexual overtures in his messages. He also sent her at least one picture of himself.

During their conversations, police said Bell represented himself as an 18-year-old to make himself more “marketable” to a young girl.

Police said Bell made arrangements to drive 130 miles to meet the girl Saturday. Just before 3 p.m., he was arrested by Barbourville and Kentucky State Police.

Bell had detailed directions on the meeting location as well as items police said he appeared to have brought for use during a sexual rendezvous.

Bell was taken to Knox County Detention Center and charged with unlawful use of an electronic means to induce a minor into sexual activity or other acts, a class D felony. He was also charged with a misdemeanor for having a controlled substance not in its original location.

Broughton said he believes Bell was later released on bail.

Police said they continue to investigate Bell to determine if he has pursued minors for sex in the past.

Broughton said his agency has done this type of undercover operation at least twice in recent years.

Broughton said it wasn’t a challenge for the undercover officer to convincingly communicate as a teenage girl.

“The officer didn’t say anything about it being hard. He’s done this for a while and knew the lingo.”

Broughton said, “We will continue to aptly engage these predators to protect children.”

Police say parents should always know to whom their child is chatting, get the software needed to protect children and keep computers in a visible place so they can supervise.

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