Two dozen men, including a police sergeant and firefighter, have been arrested in an undercover child sex sting, New Jersey law enforcement officials announced Tuesday.
According to state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the sting, dubbed "Operation Open House," targeted "men who allegedly were using social media in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity."
During the investigation, undercover officers posed as underage boys and girls on social media sites such as Grindr, Whisper, Skout and Kik, the Attorney General's Office said in a news release.
The release said the defendants "typically initiated contact" with the officers and "are alleged to have made arrangements to meet the 'children' for sex."
The suspects were arrested from Sept. 5 to Sept. 9 at an undercover house in Toms River, other meetup locations or their own cars, authorities said.
Those arrested include Howell Township police Sgt. Richard Conte, 47, of Farmingdale, and Richard Hoffman, 23, a firefighter and college student from Mays Landing.
The following suspects also were arrested:
- Mina G. Beshay, 27, of Monroe Township
- Christopher Vargas, 29, of Toms River
- Joshua Rauter, 31, of Little Egg Harbor Township
- Joseph Martin, 35, of Seaside Heights
- Volvi Lowinger, 23, of Lakewood
- Thomas Graciano, 28, of Brick
- Thomas Blumensteel, 47, of Manchester
- Thomas Fuller, 44, Toms River
- Zachary Vincent, 24, of Forked River
- William Singleton, 24, of Pemberton Township
- Jonathan Vece, 22, of Turnersville
- Lawrence Ivancic, 51, of Toms River
- Robert Lisicki, 51, of Metuchen
- Dylan Daffron, 28, of Lacey Township
- Steven Portnoy, 27, of Egg Harbor Township
- David Studnicky, 64, of Toms River
- Anthony Perfidio, 24, of Barnegat
- Brian Degnan, 33, of Toms River
- Nabindranauth Nandalall, 24, of Bronx, New York
- William D. Davis, 23, Bayville
- Charles Schlottfeld, 26, of Bayville
- Douglass Walton, 54, of Hillsborough
All 24 suspects are facing charges of "attempted luring or enticing a child with purpose to commit a criminal offense against the child," a second-degree offense, the news release said. Some also face charges of attempted sexual assault on a minor, attempted debauching morals of a child and attempted showing obscene material to a minor. See the full list of the suspects and their charges here.
“It is disturbing that some of the alleged child predators from this operation held positions of public service and authority, but behind closed doors they went through great lengths to avoid detection online, frequenting social media sites with the sole purpose of targeting unsuspecting children,” New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan said in a statement. “Our troopers and partners on the ICAC Task Force are unfazed by the outward appearances of sex offenders and will continue to turn the tables on predators by luring them out of hiding and bringing them to justice. These arrests serve as a sobering reminder that parents should closely monitor their child’s online activity.”
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