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NJ Man Convicted of Explicit Contact, Child Endangerment

Mays Landing

By: Najla Alexander 

Authorities in Atlantic County announced that on Wednesday, February 7, an Atlantic County jury convicted Marcelino Cruz, 34, of Mullica Township, of second-degree explicit contact, endangering the welfare of a child, and possession of explicit abuse material (CSAM).

The investigation into the assault began when the minor child’s mother discovered disturbing text messages on the child’s phone, officials stated. 

Authorities say police confirmed that the then 33-year-old Cruz was communicating with the 13-year-old child.

The investigation revealed Cruz engaged in an explicit act with the minor child during the first week of August 2022, officials said. 

Officials say police also recovered an image of CSAM from Cruz’s phone.

According to officials, Cruz, already a registered offender, had been released from prison for less than a year when he explicitly assaulted the juvenile in August of 2022.

The prior conviction in 2019 out of Salem County, officials said, resulted in Cruz being sentenced to five years in state prison, and he was released on parole in November of 2022.

Officials stated as a result of this Wednesday’s conviction, Cruz faces up to 20 years in New Jersey State Prison, which must be served in its entirety prior to resumption of his parole supervision for life, as well as continued registration pursuant to Megan’s Law.

He also faces up to five years each for the count of endangering the welfare of a child and possession of CSAM, officials said.

This case was investigated by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit and the Mullica Township Police Department.

Assistant Prosecutor Tiffany deGrandmaison prosecuted the case for the state, and officials say his sentencing is scheduled for May 6, 2024, before the Honorable Donna M. Taylor, J.S.C.