'Predator Poachers' sting leads to Hempfield man's arrest

Feb. 9—A Hempfield man is free on $25,000 unsecured bail after state police said he sent a picture of his genitals through social media to a girl he believed was 9 or 10 years old.

Thomas J. Hibbard, 60, is charged with unlawful contact with a minor.

Troopers said they were contacted on Monday by a member of "Predator Poachers," which describes itself as a community dedicated to protecting children. Videos posted on the group's website indicate members of the community pose as minors and then film their confrontations with suspected child predators.

The group's leader told investigators that he created a fake Instagram account for a 9-year-old girl and confronted Hibbard at his home regarding sexual conversations they exchanged in the app's messenger, according to court papers.

"The purpose of this account was to expose child sexual predators in society," troopers said.

Police were provided with photographs of the communication over several weeks beginning in April. In those messages, the person portraying the girl told Hibbard she was 9 years old and Hibbard is accused of sending her a photo of his genitals, in addition to sexual discussions, according to court papers.

Troopers said they interviewed Hibbard and he admitted to sending the photographs and engaging in sexual conversation. He did not have an attorney listed in online court records. A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 23.

It's not the first time Pennsylvania State Police have made an arrest after getting a tip from Predator Poachers.

Troopers in Susquehanna County arrested a man in February 2022 after a similar situation in which a suspect was confronted by members of the group. Arrests connected to the group have been reported in Kentucky, Wisconsin and California.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .