A Minnesota man who identified himself as Dirk from Chicago thought he was chatting online with a 15-year-old girl. But when he flew to South Florida to meet her for sex, he was arrested, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Richard Martin Lehner, 55, did not know he was actually communicating with an undercover detective who was posing as the teenager to identify potential child sexual predators online, according to the arrest report.
Lehner and the detective allegedly made contact March 3 on a chatting app and exchanged phone numbers for texting and voicemails. Lehner referred to her as “Good Princess” and wrote descriptive sexual scenarios he would act out when he met her, the report stated.
The conversations continued through May 6 with Lehner writing he loved the girl, wanted a long-term relationship with her and to be a father figure to her, the report said.
Lehner allegedly said he wanted to fly to West Palm Beach for a sexual encounter but would wait until the school year was done. The report said his conversations acknowledged that meeting her would be illegal and suggested she tell her mother she was staying with a friend for a week to avoid suspicion.
“I’m still scared about prison… but my feelings for you are stronger than the fear,” he allegedly wrote. “I’m just saying we have to be careful.”
Lehner’s phone and internet records led police to a home in Shakopee, Minn., and his identity was confirmed with a Minnesota driver’s license, police said.
His arrest report stated that on May 5, he told the undercover detective that he booked a flight to Fort Lauderdale and reserved a hotel room in Palm Beach Gardens. When he arrived on Tuesday, May 11, he rented a car, stopped to buy condoms and drove to a restaurant to meet the girl. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies were waiting for him.
During questioning, detectives said Lehner confessed and said he did it because, “love is love.”
He is facing charges of obscene communications, using a computer to seduce, solicit and lure a child and traveling to meet a child after using a computer to lure a child. He was ordered held in the Palm Beach County Jail on bonds totaling $300,000, records show.