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Engineering professor charged with cyber crimes

October 31, 2008

by Mary Nash

Tech Professor Ralph Gabriel was arrested last Thursday and charged with cyber sex crimes following an investigation led by Kenner police.

Assisted by the Ruston Police Department as well as Tech Police, Gabriel, a second year civil engineering professor, was arrested on Tech campus and charged with one count of crimes of computer aided solicitation for sexual purposes and five counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

According to Det. Brian McGregor of the Kenner Police Department, Gabriel was released Saturday on bond of $70,000. His court date is now set for Dec. 8 in Gretna.

Dave Guerin, Tech marketing and public relations director, said Tech is currently conducting its own investigation into the matter.

“Gabriel is currently on administrative leave with pay,” Guerin said. “This means the university will review the case and make a determination as soon as all information has been examined.”

Guerin also said Gabriel’s past was reviewed prior to beginning employment at the university.

“Human Resources conducted a background check and found he had no previous record,” Guerin said.

McGregor said the investigation began when a Kenner detective, posing as a juvenile, entered into an online chat room where Gabriel was using the screen name “rjg_pe.”
There, Gabriel attempted to contact the juvenile on five occasions between Sept. 30 and Oct. 8.

With each session, Gabriel invited the juvenile to view his Webcam where Gabriel could be seen exposing himself and masturbating.

Gabriel later admitted to investigators that he exposed himself to possibly 50 underage females which he met in various online chat rooms.

McGregor also said Gabriel informed investigators there were images of child pornography saved on his computer. Gabriel’s computers were siezed and will undergo a forensic exam.

Dixie Griffin, a professor of civil engineering and friend of Gabriel, said he was stunned when he learned of the accusations against his colleague.

“I was shocked, just utterly shocked.” Griffin said. “I was out of town at the time and heard something was wrong with Gabriel. I immediately thought maybe he had cancer or a heart attack but I never expected that.”

Griffin said he has spoken to Gabriel twice since the allegations came to light.

“He is not feeling well as one might imagine,” Griffin said. “He is not in the best of spirits.”

Griffin said no matter what may come of Gabriel, he wants the Tech community to know Gabriel loved his work and was committed to his students.

“Ralph was a hard worker who cared a great deal about his job,” Griffin said. “He would be here six to seven days a week.
“This is unfortunate and no one could have predicted it, but people should know he cared about his students and this university.”

Lt. Wayne McInnis, commander of criminal investigations for the Kenner Police Department, said this Gabriel’s case is not an isolated incident.

“We consistently stress we are aggressively pursuing people. Students sometimes do not realize the dangers out there. Just because this instance was a case in which the person preyed upon underage females does not mean all offenders will be that way,” McInnis said.
“Students need to open their eyes to what they give of themselves on the Internet and see the dangers that are out there.”

Guerin said no matter what the outcome Tech wants to do what is best for all involved.

“This is an unfortunate situation we’re dealing with, but we want to assure everyone we have the best interest of students, faculty and staff,” Guerin said. “Safety is the primary concern for the Tech community and we want to continue to keep that in mind. You never want this to happen or expect it but it has happened and we are addressing it with the idea of doing what is best for Tech.”

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