A New Jersey police officer sent a 12-year-old girl explicit photos of himself in uniform and tried to set up a sexual encounter with her, days after meeting the girl while assisting her family in an unrelated police matter, authorities said Wednesday.
The Woodland Park police officer, Steven Vigorito Jr., pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday and is being held on $250,000 bail following his arrest while on duty Tuesday night.
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes says the girl's family complained to the police department that the officer had made inappropriate comments to the girl and had given her his private cell phone number and asked her to text him.
Police say detectives posing as the girl received explicit text messages from the officer, including graphic photos of him in uniform exposing himself. He allegedly tried to convince the girl to meet him for sex.
"What is so disturbing about this, is the person who was to assist the family, ends up preying on the family," Valdes said.
Vigorito has been suspended without pay. He was charged with attempted aggravated sexual assault, official misconduct, attempted sexual assault, luring and enticing a child and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted on all the counts, he faces a maximum of 50 years in prison.
It's not immediately known if Vigorito has an attorney.
Woodland Police Chief Anthony Galietti said the investigation was distressing and that the allegations against one officer were not a reflection of the local police department.
"It's very upsetting, but we didn't care that it was one of our own," Galietti said. "I'm a father of five and we treated him like any suspect off the street."
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