HOWELL — A veteran Howell police officer and the former head of Monmouth County's emergency response team was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury on charges that he attempted to lure a 15-year-old girl he met online to meet for a sexual encounter in 2018.

Sgt. Richard Conte, 48, was arrested in September 2018 after being accused of making arrangements to meet a teenage girl in what turned out to part of the "Operation Open House" sting operation in Toms River. Twenty-four men were accused of using social media to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity, according to the Attorney General's office.

According to the criminal complaint in Conte's case, during chats with the "girl" — really an undercover investigator — on DoubleList and the messaging app Kik, Conte said he was 19 and suggested the girl pretend she was 18. He also said he wanted to "get naked" with her, investigators say. wasn't a real girl?

Conte was arrested after showing up to the meeting location, and had condoms in his pocket, police said.

The resident of Farmingdale was indicted on charges of official misconduct (a second-degree charge), luring, enticing a child (second degree), attempted endangering the welfare of a child (third degree) and attempted sexual contact with a victim aged 13 to 15 (fourth degree).

Conte was suspended without pay at the time of his arrest from the Howell police department.

Howell police chief Andrew Kudrick, who said he also worked with Conte as part of the Monmouth SWAT team, said in a post on his department's Facebook page he wanted Conte fired.

"It is an embarrassment and insult to everyone who honorably wears the Howell patch on our sleeve and the badge upon our chest. His actions are not a reflection of the officers or this department. I can assure you we are all repulsed," Kudrick wrote.

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