New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and numerous partners targeted and arrested 79 sex offenders, predators on internet and social media with their undercover operations initiative, “Operation Safety Net’ and with a mobile forensics lab & electronics detection dog, the New Jersey Attorney General announced on Friday.
Those arrested range in age from 14 to 75 and among them a youth minister and a police officer.
Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced the arrests of 79 child predators and child pornography offenders in “Operation Safety Net,” a nine-month, multi-agency child protection initiative led by the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. Partnering agencies targeted sex offenders who exploited the internet and social media, making arrests in every New Jersey county and deploying, for the first time, a new van equipped as a mobile cyber forensics lab, as well as a new canine trained to sniff out electronic devices, to assist in execution of search warrants.
Those arrested in Operation Safety Net included 10 “hands-on” offenders, including child predators in California and Indiana who allegedly tried to have children transported interstate from New Jersey by adult traffickers so they could have sex with the children; four men in New Jersey who allegedly sought to lure children for sex; a camp counselor who allegedly sexually assaulted a girl, 14, under his supervision; a youth minister who allegedly sent lewd photos of himself to a young girl; and a man, 24, who allegedly used a phone app to record underage girls performing sex acts on themselves.
Those arrested also included numerous defendants, ranging in age from 14 to 75, who allegedly amassed and/or distributed large collections of child pornography, including a Trenton police officer, a swimming coach, a piano teacher, an IT professional from Morris County who allegedly had over 138,000 files of suspected child pornography (possibly over one million), a mechanic from Mercer County who allegedly had over 10,000 files of child porn, and three brothers in Cumberland County who allegedly had nearly 5,000 files of child pornography.
“The men we arrested lurked in the shadows of the internet and social media, looking for opportunities to sexually assault young children or to view such unspeakable assaults by sharing child pornography,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We set up a wide safety net in this operation to snare these alleged predators and to protect children, which remains our highest priority. With our new mobile forensics lab and electronics-sniffing dog, we’re even better equipped to uncover the evidence that will keep these offenders behind bars, where they cannot threaten or further exploit vulnerable victims.”
“I want to thank all of the many agencies and individuals who participated in this massive, unprecedented and highly collaborative effort to protect our children and communities in New Jersey and elsewhere,” Porrino added.
“We charged 10 men with hands-on predatory conduct against children, including attempted interstate trafficking of children for sex, sexual assault, luring, sending obscene images to a child, or manufacturing child pornography,” said Attorney General Porrino. “These cases highlight the fact that viewing child pornography is part of a continuum of deviant behavior that often leads to or drives other sex crimes.”
“The charges against Castillo reveal a dangerous child predator who went to great lengths in the belief that he was flying two very young girls to California so he could sexually assault them,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Had we not arrested him with our federal and California partners, the allegations indicate he would have continued to seek victims, including children as young as toddlers.”
“We’ve made these proactive child protection investigations a top priority by adding more staff for them at the state level and considerable new resources, including the mobile forensics lab and electronics detection dog,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “There’s no question that by collaborating across all levels of law enforcement and arresting these offenders, we protected innocent children who might otherwise have been sexually abused and exploited. We’ve also ensured that all these men who victimized children – or re-victimized them by viewing child pornography – will face justice.”
“The individuals who share this horrific material will not stop unless they are apprehended and removed from the public,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The nine-month investigation conducted by the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and partnering agencies has ensured that children throughout the country will not fall victim to the actions of these depraved individuals. These arrests should put anyone looking to engage in this behavior on notice that law enforcement will be relentless in our efforts to put them behind bars.”
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In addition to investigating numerous cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the ICAC Task Force in Operation Safety Net conducted proactive investigations to apprehend offenders by monitoring peer-to-peer file-sharing networks and identifying the IP addresses of individuals sharing child pornography. Detectives also conducted undercover chat investigations on social media platforms, which led to arrests of alleged hands-on offenders and defendants attempting to lure children.
A few of the arrested were from other states.
Information about the accused, photos, locations can be found here.
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