A former B.C. school principal who was targeted in a Creep Catchers sting four years ago testified that he knowingly walked into the vigilante group's trap – because he was doing research on them.
Jason Obert was working as the principal of Mission's Windebank Elementary when he was recorded in a Fraser Valley Creep Catchers video back in 2016. The group alleged Obert had tried arranging a meeting with two underage girls named "Sara" and "Hannah."
The girls were not real. Members of the group pose as teenagers in an attempt to ensnare men they meet online.
But at a Teacher Regulation Branch hearing held this summer, Obert said he knew he was communicating with the Creep Catchers, and did so intentionally because he intended to write about the group.
"(Obert) admitted that he arranged to meet 'Sara' and 'Hannah' in person on two different occasions in October 2016," wrote the panel that oversaw the hearing. "But he asserted that he knew that they were part of the Creep Catchers, and he went because he wanted to talk to the Creep Catchers as part of his research."
The panel ultimately found his explanation "not plausible," however.
Obert admitted he sent sexualized text messages to people who had presented themselves as being 14 and 15 years old, but testified that he also made his research intentions clear during the exchanges. He said the Creep Catchers had deleted those messages to strengthen the case against him.
Obert didn't present any evidence to back up that claim, and Fraser Valley Creep Catchers founder Chelsea Bullon, who posed as both "Sara" and "Hannah," testified that none of his messages were deleted.
Obert told the hearing he couldn't corroborate his story because he threw his cellphone off a bridge the day after the sting. He testified that he was worried the Creep Catchers "would find out who he was and come to his house to confront him," according to the panel's July 29 decision, which was posted online this week.
What the text records that were presented to the Teacher Regulation Branch hearing do show is Obert asking if "Sara" and "Hannah" smoked cannabis and offering to buy them alcohol.
He also called one of the them "hot" and "mint," asked if she was a virgin, and repeatedly referred to himself as her "daddy."
The panel ultimately found Obert guilty of conduct unbecoming a teacher under the B.C. Teachers Act. The penalty has not been decided.
Obert was previously charged with child luring following an investigation into the Creep Catchers sting by Abbotsford police, but the single count was later stayed. Prosecutors said the Crown was concerned about the admissibility of the evidence against him.
Instead, the former principal was released on a nine-month peace bond that included several conditions restricting his contact with minors.
Obert was suspended from his job at Windebank shortly after the Creep Catchers video was published, and he was fired months later. His teaching certificate was cancelled last November due to non-payment of fees.