An online relationship between a Richmond man and someone he thought was a 14-year-old youth ended on the Mendocino Coast where the man planned to meet the youth for a sexual encounter, reported Mendocino County sheriff's officials Tuesday.

Instead of meeting the youth, he was arrested by deputies who'd posed online as the 14-year-old boy, said sheriff's Lt. Greg Van Patten.

An investigation was launched in October after parents told deputies they feared their 14-year-old son was engaged in an online relationship with a man through a Craigslist posting, said Van Patten.

Deputies contacted the man through the posting and, posing as the boy, began exchanging emails with him.

Van Patten said it became evident the man wanted a sexual experience with a minor and he arranged the meeting in the coastal town.

Deputies on Saturday arrested Michael Wolfgang Sparks, 40, on suspicion of sending harmful matter to a minor, contact with intent to commit a lewd act with a minor and meeting with a minor for the purpose of a lewd act, all felonies.

Sparks was booked into the Mendocino County Jail. He posted $50,000 bail on Sunday and was released.

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