Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy today announced that a Flemington man was indicted by a state grand jury on charges including first-degree manufacturing of child pornography for allegedly soliciting underage girls online, including an autistic girl, to send him sexually explicit photos of themselves.
The indictment, which was handed up yesterday afternoon, stems from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Thomas A. Pirretti, 33, of Flemington, allegedly met the autistic victim, a 16-year-old California resident, on the Nintendo Network in October 2014. After obtaining her phone number, Pirretti allegedly called the girl repeatedly and solicited her to send him sexually explicit photos of herself. He also allegedly asked her to send photos of herself engaging in sexual activity with her younger female cousin. He told the victim that he would be her boyfriend if she complied with his demands.
In response to his alleged demands, the victim sent Pirretti at least 10 nude images of herself. When the victim’s mother learned about the conduct, she alerted local police, who traced the calls to New Jersey and notified the Division of Criminal Justice.
In November 2014, Pirretti allegedly solicited an 11-year-old Colorado girl to send him naked photos of herself. As in the previous instance, he allegedly met the victim on the Nintendo Network and obtained her phone number. He then called her repeatedly and asked her to send him nude photos of herself.
That victim did not send any photos. When the victim’s father learned about the phone calls, he alerted local police, who entered the case into the cybertip database of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The phone number of the caller was again traced to Pirretti.
At the time of the alleged conduct, Pirretti already was facing charges of possession and distribution of child pornography stemming from his July 22, 2014 arrest in “Operation Predator Alert,” a joint operation by the Division of Criminal Justice and ICE Homeland Security Investigations.
A total of 28 individuals were arrested in Operation Predator Alert, in two separate sweeps, for allegedly using a file-sharing network to download and distribute child pornography, including child rape videos, on the Internet.
That investigation revealed that, between October 2013 and June 2014, Pirretti allegedly possessed approximately 1,005 items of child pornography and allegedly distributed approximately 750 items of child pornography via email. He allegedly engaged in an online chat with another defendant in Operation Predator Alert in which they discussed their desire for prepubescent girls. Pirretti allegedly asked if he could pay for sexual activity with the other defendant’s 10-year-old daughter.
Pirretti was charged in a 10-count indictment filed yesterday by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. He is charged with manufacturing child pornography (1st degree), attempted manufacturing of child pornography (2nd degree), distribution of 25 or more files of child pornography (2nd degree), distribution of child pornography (2nd degree, pre-Aug. 14, 2013), possession of 100 or more files of child pornography (3rd degree), possession of child pornography (3rd degree), possession of child pornography (4th degree, pre-Aug. 14, 2013), debauching the morals of a child (3rd degree), attempted debauching the morals of a child (3rd degree), and cyber-harassment (3rd degree).
The first-degree count of manufacturing child pornography carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum term of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed, and a fine of up to $500,000.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000; third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000; and fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison and a $10,000 fine.
Under New Jersey’s new child pornography law, which took effect on Aug. 14, 2013, possession of 100 or more computer files of child pornography carries a presumption that the defendant will face a state prison term of three to five years, regardless of whether the defendant has any prior felony record. Distribution of 25 or more files of child pornography under the new law carries a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility of five years. In cases of possession or distribution of child pornography, the prosecutor can ask the court to impose a sentence of parole supervision for life under Megan’s Law.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Hunterdon County, where Pirretti will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
Pirretti currently is free on $125,000 bail. As a condition of bail, Pirretti is prohibited from accessing the Internet.
Acting Attorney General Lougy and Director Honig urged anyone who suspects improper contact by persons communicating with children on the Internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children to contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.