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21 Men Arrested in Hamilton Township During Undercover Operation Targeting Predators Using Social Media to Lure Minors

By kbm0423 on
Hamilton Township (Mercer)

New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri today announced the arrests of 21 alleged child predators in “Operation Risky Business,” a multi-agency undercover operation targeting individuals who allegedly were using social medial in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for explicit activity.  

The underage “children” were, in fact, undercover officers. Most of the defendants in Operation Risky Business were arrested at either the undercover residence in Hamilton Township or another meet-up location, including the Hamilton Train Station. 

Those who went to the undercover house allegedly expected to find their victims home alone. 

Instead, they found law enforcement officers prepared to arrest them and process any evidence seized.  

Those arrested include four Megan’s Law registrants, an injury lawyer from Georgia, an information technology worker, a dump truck driver, and a pastry chef from the Pocono Mountains region. 

One defendant was arrested and charged in two cases because he was chatting online with two separate undercover officers.

“Operation Risky Business is a great example of how successful law enforcement agencies can be when they collaborate across all levels as they did here by proactively investigating and arresting predators who sought to exploit children,” Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said. 

“We are committed to working collaboratively in order to aggressively investigate and prosecute sex offenders. But we also need parents to talk to their children about the dangers of social media and let them know not everyone who they encounter online is who they initially claim to be.”

About half of the arrests in Operation Risky Business were made over a four-day period from April 7 through April 10.  

The defendants were from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and one from Georgia.  

They are variously charged with offenses including second-degree attempted luring, second-degree attempted explicit assault, third-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, and fourth-degree attempted criminal explicit contact.  

Arrest warrants for the remainder of the suspects were forwarded to the U.S. Marshals Service, who tracked down the rest of the alleged predators over the last few weeks. 

The undercover law enforcement members who conducted the chats with the defendants were specially trained members of the New Jersey ICAC Task Force. 

The defendants typically initiated contact based on profiles posted on social media platforms by the undercover detectives and agents. 

The social platforms that were used in these encounters included Kik, Skout, Whisper, Grindr, GROWLr, and MeetMe.  

Once chatting began, the undercover officers clearly identified themselves as underage girls or boys. Despite that information, the defendants allegedly engaged the purported “children” in conversations about explicit content. All 21 defendants are alleged to have made arrangements to meet the “children” to engage in explicit contact.  

Some of the chats were conducted over a period of several weeks leading up to the “meet-up” week when arrests were made.

Prosecutor Onofri advised parents to familiarize themselves with the apps their children use, as well as signs that their children may be targets of online exploitation.  

“Spending an increasing amount of time online, becoming secretive about their online conduct, switching screens or closing tabs or windows whenever a parent is close, using sexual language they would not be expected to know and becoming emotionally volatile, these are all red flags,” he said.

The undercover house was staffed with dozens of law enforcement officers, analysts and attorneys.  

Attorneys and detectives drafted search warrants for electronic devices that were seized from the defendants.  

These devices were taken to the forensic computer laboratory at the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office for full forensic examinations.  

These examinations, which are ongoing, will enable investigators to determine if the devices contain evidence of any prior encounters by the defendants with underage victims, which might constitute additional cases of luring, explicit assault, or child endangerment.

The defendants were lodged in the Mercer County Correction Center until detention hearings were held.  

Three defendants - Gregory Barger (who is a registered sex offender in Pennsylvania), Justin Wann, and James Hendryx - were ordered detained in jail pending trial.  

The other defendants were released subject to stringent pre-trial monitoring conditions, including, at a minimum, reporting regularly to Pre-Trial Services staff and prohibitions from using the internet except for work or having any unsupervised contact with children under 18.

Operation Risky Business

The following 21 men were arrested in Operation Risky Business and are charged as indicated. They allegedly believed they were communicating with a minor, as described in parentheses.

  • Laurentiu Tonea, 41, East Windsor, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Tonea is an information technology worker in Edison, NJ. Charges: Attempted sexual assault, two counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted criminal explicit contact and attempted luring.
  • Richard Parsons, 42, Cumming, GA.  (Girl, 14)  Parsons is an injury lawyer. Charges: Two counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted criminal explicit contact.
  • Michael Kramer, 52, Philadelphia, PA.  (Girl, 15)  Kramer is a dump truck driver. Charges: Attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted explicit assault, attempted possession of explicit images of minors, attempted manufacturing of explicit images of minors.
  • Robert Franklin, Gloucester City, NJ.  (Girl, 13)  Charge: Attempted endangering the welfare of a minor. 
  • Jesus Clavel Villa, 49, Trenton, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Villa is a cook in Trenton. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor.
  • Moises Cortes Diaz, 35, New Brunswick, NJ.  (Girl, 13)  Diaz is a self-employed painter. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted manufacturing of explicit images of minors.
  • Joseph Roman, 31, Denville, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Roman is unemployed and a registered sex offender. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, two counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted manufacturing of explicit images of minors.
  • Emanuel Rodriguez, 25, Trenton, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Charges: Two counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted manufacturing of explicit image of minors.
  • Gregory Barger, 37, Morrisville, PA.  (Girl, 14)  Barger is a self-employed painter and a registered sex offender in Pennsylvania. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted kidnapping.
  • Justin Wann, 35, Paulsboro, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Wann is a self-employed painter. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted kidnapping, attempted criminal explicit contact, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor.
  • Frank Duggan, 54, Bordentown, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Duggan is unemployed. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted manufacturing of explicit images of minors.
  • Nestor Alonso Chappuis, 37, Hamilton, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Chappuis is unemployed and a registered sex offender. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor.
  • Evan Sluka, 27, Blakeslee, PA.  (Girl, 14)  Sluka is a chef in Stroudsburg, PA.  Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted criminal explicit contact.
  • James Hendryx, 26, Hamilton, NJ.  (Boy, 14)  Hendryx is unemployed. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor.
  • Kyle Zang, 31, Stewartstown, PA.  (Girl, 14)  Charges: Two counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted manufacturing of explicit images of a minor.
  • Justin Wann, 35, Paulsboro. (Girl, 14)  Wann is a self-employed painter. Charges: Four counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor. This second case is based on an additional chat with another undercover officer.
  • Christopher Baez, 36, New York, NY.  (Girl, 14)  Baez is a restaurant worker. Charges: Two counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor and attempted manufacturing of explicit images of a minor.
  • Joseph Zekas, 49, Williamstown, NJ.  (Girl, 13)  Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted criminal explicit contact, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor.
  • Taylor Picillo, 29, Hamilton, NJ.  (Boy, 14). Picillo is employed by a solar energy equipment supplier in Rocklin, CA. Charges: Attempted explicit assault, attempted luring, attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, resisting arrest.
  • William Oldham, 45, Williamstown, NJ.  (Girl, 14)  Oldham is a fence installer. Charges: Two counts of attempted endangering the welfare of a minor and attempted manufacturing of explicit images of minors.
  • Charles Amer, 50, Maple Shade, NJ.  (Girl, 13)  Amer is a warehouse laborer and a registered sex offender. Charges: Attempted endangering the welfare of a minor, attempted luring.
  • Yohann Rigogne, 41, Philadelphia, PA.  (Girl, 14)  Rigogne is unemployed.  Charge: Attempted endangering the welfare of a minor.