What to Know
Two dozen men were arrested for trying to meet with underage children for sex following a sting operation in New Jersey
The men were arrested when they arrived at an "undercover house" where they thought they were meeting the children for sex
A police officer, a nurse and a firefighter were among the men arrested as part of the operation, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said
A police officer, a nurse and a firefighter were among two dozen men arrested for trying to meet with underage teens for sex following a sting operation, the New Jersey attorney general’s office said.
The 24 alleged child predators thought they were chatting with underage girls and boys via social media and chat apps, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at a press conference Tuesday.
But when they arrived at an “undercover house” where they thought they were meeting the teens for sex, they were arrested, Grewal said.
New Jersey’s Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and New Jersey State Police collaborated on the week-long sting operation, known as “Operation Open House.”
“These 24 men were allegedly lurking on social media looking for vulnerable, underage boys and girls to sexually assault,” Grewal said. “Instead… they ended up preying upon undercover officers posing as children.”
One of the men who was arrested, Howell Police Sgt. Richard Conte, claimed he was a 19-year-old boy and believed he was chatting with a 15-year-old girl, according to Grewal.
A nurse, a firefighter, college students and a registered sex offender were also arrested during the course of the operation, he said.
“In short, these defendants come from all walks of life, but as we allege in our complaints, they shared a depraved and dangerous proclivity to sexually exploit underage children,” he said.
All of the men have been charged with second-degree attempted luring or enticing a child with a purpose to commit a criminal offense against the child, according to Veronica Allende, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. Some of the men face additional charges as well, she said.
Grewal warned parents to monitor their children’s social media use and make sure all of the apps they’re using are “age appropriate.”
“Let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seem to be,” he said.
The operation was meant to serve as a warning, Grewal noted.
“We want child predators to know that we’re on social media too,” he said. “And that the next child they target may be an undercover officer waiting for them with handcuffs.”