NJ sting operation nabs 21 men for allegedly trying to lure children for sex
Twenty-one men from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia have been arrested and charged for allegedly using social media to lure children for sexual activity.
Those "children" were actually undercover officers, as part of Operation Risky Business, a collaborative investigation led by the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, the state Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.
About half of the arrests were made over a four-day period from April 7 through April 10, according to authorities. The defendants (photos below) went to an undercover residence in Hamilton Township or another meet-up spot to find their supposed victims. Instead, they found officers prepared to make an arrest and process any evidence seized.
"Not in Mercer. Not our children. Not under my watch. That's the message we are sending to sexual predators with collaborative efforts like Operation Risky Business," said Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.
Onofri said social media sites have become hunting grounds for individuals looking to exploit children.
"Parents and guardians can do their part by remaining vigilant," he said. "Talk to your children about the dangers that exist on social media and gaming apps, and monitor their online activity."
Charges vary from defendant to defendant. Offenses include second-degree attempted luring, second-degree attempted sexual assault, third-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a child, and fourth-degree attempted criminal sexual contact.
Among those arrested is an injury lawyer from Georgia, a pastry chef from the Pocono Mountains region, and four Megan's Law registrants. One defendant was charged in two cases for allegedly chatting online with two separate undercover officers.