RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A registered sex offender who posed as a ride inspector was arrested at the North Carolina State Fair and appeared in court on Wednesday.
Tyrone Szabo “posed as state-licensed ride inspector at the N.C. State Fair in order to gain access to an area designated specifically for children,” according to officials at the Wake County Magistrate’s Office.
“Two state troopers happened to see a guy with a chemical mace strapped to his side; plain view. So, they approached him and asked him what was he doing in the fairgrounds with the mace,” said Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison. “He said, ‘I’m a certified ride inspector; I’m here to inspect the rides in Kiddieland.’
“He said, ‘My kids may want to ride the rides and I want to make sure they’re safe.’”
Harrison said the troopers started questioning Szabo and it didn’t sound right so they called the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.
“All of a sudden, we begin to talk to him and found out he’s a registered sex offender, so he was charged and banned from the fairgrounds.”
Szabo was arrested, he was wearing khaki BDU-style tactical clothing, complete with a flashlight and workboots.
Szabo, 64, is a registered sex offender listed on the North Carolina Department of Public Safety website. According to the state sex offender registry, Szabo was convicted in 2006 in Granville County for multiple counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
He is charged with impersonating a public officer and being on premises where children are present.
Szabo was given a $250,000 bond and appeared in court Wednesday afternoon. During the court appearance, his bond was kept at $250,000.
Last week, WNCN reporters checked in with the Wake County Sheriff about safety during the 11-day fair.
Amid the hundreds of thousands of fair goers are hundreds of deputies and officers from eight agencies, all monitoring for criminals amid the crowds.
Harrison told WNCN officials are scanning all entrances to make sure sex offenders and other criminals stay out.
“We’re not picking on them but we want to make sure they’re abiding by what they’re supposed to do. And we can check that offender and if he or she is not supposed to be here then of course they will be escorted from the grounds and the proper paperwork will be taken care of,” Harrison said.
This is the 40th year the Wake County Sheriff’s Office is providing security for the N.C. State Fair.
“Anytime somebody takes or deceives us and tries to get into the fairgrounds and get around the kids when they are sex offenders, it really bothers me because you don’t know what extent they’re going to,” Harrison said.
The Wake County Sheriff’s Office is also looking into a second case involving a registered-sex offender whose ankle bracelet went off. Harrison said it was unclear if that person will face charges though. Investigators are still looking into the man’s criminal history to see if he was legally allowed to be at the fair or not.