Parents, guide your children’s use of social media because pedophiles are now using it to prey on their victims.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the arrest of 24 suspected pedophiles on Tuesday (Wednesday Manila time) under an operation called “Open House.” Among those arrested is a Filipino nurse identified by ABS-CBN News as Christopher Vargas, 29, a resident of Toms River, New Jersey.
Vargas was released pending trial. During the press conference, it was announced that he, along with the 23 other men were charged with second degree attempted luring or enticing a child with a purpose to commit a criminal offense.
If proven guilty, ABS-CBN News said they could be imprisoned from 5 to 10 years and will have to pay US$150,000 (more than PHP8.105 million) in fines.
Some of them will also face additional charges such as attempted sexual assault and attempted debauching the morals of a child. Some will also be charged for allegedly sending photos of their genitals to the police.
According to ABC 7 New York, the arrests were made from Sept. 5 to Sept. 9.
NBC 10 reported that majority of the suspects were arrested at a house in Toms River, New Jersey, where they thought they were going to meet their young victims.
The men, some of whom chatted with their victims for as long as a week, thought they were talking with underaged people, who turned out to be undercover police officers.
During the press conference, Grewal said that among those arrested were a police officer, a firefighter, college students, and a registered sex offender. According to authorities one of the suspects, 47-year-old police sergeant named Richard Conte even brought condoms with him.
Video: @GurbirGrewalNJ announces the arrests of 24 alleged #childpredators in “Operation Open House,” an undercover operation targeting men who allegedly were using social media in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity – https://t.co/mzoP4YJ7K0
— AG Gurbir Grewal (@NewJerseyOAG) September 18, 2018
Grewal said: “These 24 men were lurking on social media, looking for vulnerable underaged boys and girls to sexually assault. Instead, they ended up preying upon undercover officers posing as children.”
He added: “When they showed up at our undercover house seeking to meet their intended victims for sex, they were arrested. The defendants are now charged with serious crimes and are now either behind bars or subject to very stringent pre-trial monitor (sic).”
Grewal said that pedophiles’ method of catching their prey has changed with the internet age. They used to stalk children at playgrounds and malls, but now they also lurk on social media.
He said: “They use the anonymity of the internet to target the same vulnerable children by presenting themselves in whatever disguise serves their sinister purposes.”
The suspects used social media apps such as Kik, Skout, Whisper, and Grindr in communicating with their supposed “victims.”
Do you supervise your child’s social media use? How? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.
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