Miss America Pageant

Miss America Helps Catch Sexual Predators

04/25/2007 at 09:20 AM EDT

Miss America Helps Catch Sexual Predators
Lauren Nelson
Robert Pitts/Landov
Miss America Lauren Nelson vowed to promote the protection of children online when she was crowned in January, and she hasn't wasted any time in pursuing that goal.

Nelson, 20, recently went undercover to help police in New York City target sexual predators on the Internet.

She allowed officers with Suffolk County's computer crimes unit to use photographs of her as a teenager to help create a believable online profile of a fictitious 14-year-old girl, the Associated Press reports.

"I got to chat online with the predators and made phone calls, too," Nelson told the AP by phone from Atlantic City. "The Suffolk County Police Department was there the whole time."

Nelson posed as a teen in chat rooms, where she said men sent her instant messages asking how old she was and where she lived.

"I would say I'm a 14-year-old female from Long Island. Sometimes they would say, 'You're too young, sorry,' which is exactly what needs to happen, but some would continue chatting," she said. "It would only take a matter of time before it got pretty explicit."

Nelson would then arranged to meet the men at a Long Island home. "The story was that they knew I was 14, and I told them I was cutting school to meet with them," she said. "I stood outside on the porch, and I would say, 'Hi' to them and wave them inside."

Once she entered the house with a suspect, she said, she would leave the room and police and America's Most Wanted host John Walsh would confront him.

A segment about the sting will air on FOX's America's Most Wanted on Saturday.

"That part was very scary, but the police were all over the place," Nelson said. "I was nervous, of course, but it was a very controlled environment, very safe."

Police spokesman Tim Motz told the AP the operation was ongoing and did not comment, but America's Most Wanted spokesman Avery Mann said that at least four men were arrested and charged, while another six men agreed to meet Nelson.

Art McMaster, president and CEO of the Miss America Organization, said he worried about Nelson's involvement but told the AP: "We came to the agreement that as long as she was safe and wanted to do this, we'd be behind her."

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