Surfing With The Cyber-Sharks



Authorities describe her as nice, bright, studious; a fourteen-year-old daughter of two prosperous working parents in lower Fairfield County. Like many her age, she regularly visited the Internet to chat online with other teens about whatever's going on. There, according to police, something happened last January that would alter her life and expose her to a world of pain: She met Phillip Palmieri.

A Milford man, Palmieri first encountered the girl in an online chat room, which allows complete strangers from around the world to come together, identified only by their screen names. The official police story, which remains the only one as of this writing as Palmieri himself declines to talk, has Palmieri drawing her into private conversation via instant messaging and telling her of things they had in common. That didn't include age however; Palmieri had just turned thirty-three.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr., the prosecutor in this and other like cases from Greenwich to Westport, sets the scene: "After a couple of conversations, they set up a meeting in a public place. They have something to eat. Then the conversation turns to sex."

It's a distressingly familiar scenario in the growing annals of Internet sex crimes.