August 3, 2008

Web Sting Snags Utah Guardsman

By Jeremiah Stettler, The Salt Lake Tribune

Aug. 3--A seasoned Utah National Guardsman was jailed Friday on suspicion of soliciting a minor over the Internet for sex.

Sgt. 1st Class Craig Dowen, a 20-year career soldier who joined the Utah Guard in 2002, was nabbed by the Utah Attorney General's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force after allegedly trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a teenage girl online.

After Dowen's arrest, a search of the soldier's Tooele home found dozens of marijuana plants -- some as tall as 5 feet -- concealed in his basement along with a sophisticated greenhouse operation, according to Ken Wallentine, chief of law enforcement for the Utah Attorney General's Office.

Wallentine described Dowen as an "aggressive" predator who had solicited three undercover officers online that evening.

Dowen's supposed 13-year-old target -- whom he scheduled to meet at a Salt Lake Valley shopping center -- was actually an undercover cop, Wallentine said.

Dowen's incarceration has stunned his military colleagues. The long-time soldier has served as chief marketing specialist for the Utah National Guard, promoting its brand and logo.

He was a "model soldier," according to National Guard spokesman Maj. Hank McIntire.

"We are absolutely shocked and disturbed by these allegations," McIntire said. "If the accusations prove true, we categorically reject such behavior as absolutely contrary to what the Guard stands for.

"We are an organization of values, and we expect all of our members to live by them. We are charged with keeping our citizens safe from harm, and we take that responsibility very seriously."

The Utah National Guard has pledged to cooperate with police in their investigation to ensure -- as the Guard announced -- that "the innocent are protected and justice is served."

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