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Authorities make 14 arrests in child porn sweep

The acting state attorney general announced Thursday that 14 New Jersey men have been arrested on child pornography charges in what authorities have dubbed Operation Predator Alert II.

14 men have charged in a second round of arrests in “Operation Predator Alert."
14 men have charged in a second round of arrests in “Operation Predator Alert.” (NJ Office of the Attorney General)

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During the original Operation Predator Alert back in October of 2013, 14 individuals were taken into custody.

At a news conference in Trenton Thursday, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said the defendants, from all walks of life “preyed on innocent children by viewing, distributing and in one case creating images of children being sexually tortured, and sexually exploited.”

Salem County resident Michael Van Culin of Monroeville is accused of manufacturing child pornography – a charge that could result in a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years.

“Van Culin allegedly hacked into the email account of a 16-year-old Canadian girl he met online, and used her personal information to blackmail her into stripping naked in front of a webcam, which he then recorded in his own home in New Jersey,” Hoffman said. “A video recording that we found on Van Culin’s computer allegedly shows the distressed victim reluctantly and fearfully taking orders from him to take off all of her cloths.”

Also arrested was Michael Parker of Pennsauken, who was very active with children at his church in Merchantville, where he was working to become a youth minister.

“We allege Parker had many files of child pornography on his computer as well as other evidence of a desire to sexually exploit prepubescent boys,” said Hoffman. “He also had photos of fully clothed boys from his church on his computer. We urge anyone with information about suspicious conduct to contact our Internet crimes against children tipline at 888-648-6007.”

Two other suspects, Andrew Schreiner of Williamstown and Armando Nortez of Egg Harbor Township, were employed as school bus drivers in Mays Landing.

Also taken into custody was a software engineer with an aerospace firm who has top security clearance; an electrician; an executive for a healthcare company; and Thomas Pirretti of Flemington, who allegedly engaged in an online chat with another defendant, discussing their shared interest in young girls. Pirretti then asked the other man if he could “date” his 10-year-old daughter.

“The common link is their depraved interest in viewing children being raped, being tortured, being exploited and being hurt,” Hoffman said.

All of the defendants are facing charges under New Jersey’s tough, new child porn statute which took effect last year. The new law included a provision that any defendant found to have possessed more than 100 child pornography files will face a presumptive sentence of three to five years in prison.

During the operation, authorities monitored an online file-sharing network that was popular with offenders who downloaded and traded child pornography. Investigators looked for telltale digital fingerprints — using advanced technology – of child porn, and were then able to track down the suspects.

Operation Predator Alert II was a joint operation involving the state Division of Criminal Justice and ICE Homeland Security Investigations.

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