TO CATCH A LAWSUIT
‘Catch a Predator’ Vigilante Sued by Pervs He Caught on Video
Two men claim they were wrongfully persecuted by a 23-year-old man who posed as an underage girl to find pedophiles and turn them in to police.
When a 23-year-old Michigan man posed as a 15-year-old girl on Craigslist, he claimed to be bringing justice to perverts—but now he’s finding himself getting accused in court.
In December 2015, Zach Sweers of Grand Rapids, Michigan created a YouTube channel called “Anxiety War” where he uploads videos of confrontations with alleged pedophiles. The videos followed the style of To Catch A Predator: posing as an underage teenager, Sweers messages men online and agrees to meet for sex. When the men appear, Sweers films them and turns the footage over to police. The channel had more than 200,000 subscribers before the videos were removed or made private by YouTube.
Seven of the 11 men featured in Sweers’s videos have been arrested on felony charges, after Sweers sent police the videos, accompanied by chat logs with the men.
In one video, Sweers films a would-be assailant outside a Taco Bell, where the man claims he only wanted to warn Sweers’ fictional teenager of the dangers of internet dating. “To be honest with you, I was gonna talk her out of it,” the man says. (During an earlier online conversation, he allegedly offered to buy Sweers a dildo.)
Two men are are suing Sweers though, claiming he’s nothing more than a vigilante.
Zachary Snoeyink, 29, and Alastaire Kolk, 25, are suing Sweers separately of libel, slander and invasion of privacy.
“The Defendants have taken it upon themselves to be Judge, Jury, and Executioner in the eyes of public opinion to smear Plaintiff’s name in a negative light across the Internet and local news media outlets all for Mr. Sweers’ own Internet fame and/or financial gain,” attorney Ross Plont, who represents both men, claimed in a suit.
Snoeyink faces up to four years in prison if he is convicted on charges of accosting a child for immoral purposes as a result of Sweers’s YouTube series.
While Kolk was not charged, he claims Sweers’s video cost him his job. The video, which racked up more than 1 million views, purportedly showed Kolk arriving to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex (who was actually Sweers). Kolk and Sweers allegedly began messaging on Omegle, a chat service that pairs random users for conversations.
“Defendant Sweers intentionally engaged in sexual conversation BEFORE indicating that the woman that he was pretending to be was a minor in an intentional effort to entrap [Kolk] and in an effort to manufacture the false presentation that [Kolk] is an alleged predator,” Plont wrote in the suit.
Even where Sweers’s footage led to arrests, the unusual nature of his civilian stings have complicated matters at the courthouse. Sweers “clearly seems to be a person who is mentally unstable,” attorney Andrew Rodenhouse argued during Snoeyink’s criminal trial in May, adding that the video series was “creating criminals.”
Rodenhouse and Plont both accuse Sweers of editing his videos and using his new fame for financial gain.
“Simply, upon information and belief, this entire affair has been Mr. Sweers’ media campaign by using the police, the prosecutor’s office and the courts to further his financial interest,” Rodenouse claimed in a court motion, implying that Sweers would have earned money from his popular YouTube videos.
In a GoFundMe campaign titled “Help me fight a frivolous lawsuit,” Sweers hit back at the accusations.
“I am being sued for using the Plaintiff’s name and image for monetary gain even though I have made NO MONEY on that video, other videos, or from my site anxietywar.com. NONE WHATSOEVER,” he wrote.
The GoFundMe campaign has currently raised more than half of its $50,000 goal.
Sweers, who declined to speak to The Daily Beast, wrote that he has also declined offers for his own television show “major Hollywood production companies,” though he does not disclose which companies made the offers. In early May, 2016, he registered “Anxiety War” as a limited-liability corporation but claims to have never earned any money from his perv busts. says has never earned any money.
But lawsuit or no, Sweers’ vigilante crusade might be over.
Calling Sweers “freelance law enforcement,” county prosecutors and local police have asked him to call off his sting video efforts, MLive reports. On his GoFundMe page, Sweers says local prosecutors will no longer issue charges for people depicted in his sting footage.
“Since I received a letter from the Kent County, MI prosecutor stating he wouldn’t authorize charges for more suspects I find as he fears for my safety, I haven’t confronted more predators,” Sweers wrote on GoFundMe.
“I know posing as a minor online is a little different but it’s for the betterment of society.”