By Jay Cook |
FREEHOLD – An in-depth, “vitally important” investigation earlier this summer yielded the arrests of 14 men of varying ages and professions alleged to have distributed or possessed child pornography images and videos, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced last week.
Dubbed Operation School’s Out, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) and its Computer Crimes Unit worked with local, state, and federal agencies from July 20 to Aug. 31 to catch the 14 Monmouth County residents. The prosecutor said these men were allegedly involved in harrowing crimes.
“They all share one common thing,” Gramiccioni said of the defendants. “That is an alleged desire to watch children be brutally assaulted and be sexually abused in these child porn images.”
Gramiccioni said the images depict “children as young as the age of infancy up through young teenage years.”
The identities of the children in the images, as well as their origins, would not be released, the prosecutor said.
A humanities professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a retired computer scientist with federal government contracts, and an electronics technician were three of the men arrested.
Gramiccioni said his office received tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as information from internet service providers which noticed the criminal activity occurring.
According to Gramiccioni, the defendants used websites like Dropbox and ChatStep, among others, to transfer and view the images. Most of the internet sharing was done “peer-to-peer” via computers connected to the internet.
HSI Deputy Special Agent Mike McCarthy said it was important to rid the streets of these alleged child predators, who leave their victims with psychological, emotional, and physical scars.
“On the surface, they look like ordinary citizens,” he said. “But behind closed doors, in front of that computer screen, they are online child sexual predators.”
FBI Special Agent Tim Gallagher said authorities chase sexual predators “to the farthest reaches of the dark net and the globe.”
He added the arrest announcement “highlights the diverse nature of the subjects that we go after in this type of investigation.”
The MCPO teamed with the FBI; Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); state police, state Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force; and New Jersey Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory; as well as police departments from Asbury Park, Belmar, Eatontown, Freehold Township, Hazlet, Holmdel, Howell, Keansburg, Keyport, Long Branch, Manalapan, Marlboro, Middletown, Neptune, Ocean, Red Bank, Sea Bright, Tinton Falls, and Wall.
The prosecutor also said each defendant is currently out on bail with conditions they have no contact with any person under the age of 18, as well as no internet use.
Eight of the 14 men are charged with distribution of child pornography, a second degree endangering the welfare of a child offense. If convicted, they could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, parole supervision for life, and addition to the state sex offender registry.
Each of the 14 alleged are charged with possession of child pornography, a third degree endangering offense. That maximum sentence is five years in state prison, with parole supervision for life.
Gramiccioni added that everyone should “stay tuned,” as he expects more cases to come out of this investigation. “It’s our obligation to try to track them down and find them,” he said.
The following were arrested as part of Operation School’s Out:
John G. Fenton, 55, of Port Monmouth Road in Middletown, a commercial oil delivery driver, was arrested on Aug. 4.
Henry Gavilanez, 27, Monmouth Place in Long Branch, an unemployed insurance salesman, was arrested on Aug. 31.
Emir Gomez, 18, of Route 35 in Eatontown, a landscaper, was arrested on Aug. 17.
Paul King, 62, of Ocean Avenue in Belmar, a professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, was arrested on Aug. 16.
Douglas Masto, 70, of Quaker Street in Wall, a self-employed business manager, was arrested on Aug. 10.
Terrance McCuen, 53, of North Ditmar Drive in the Wanamassa section of Ocean Township, a construction site superintendent, was arrested on Aug. 2.
Alan Raczek, 27, of Meadow Drive in Tinton Falls, a grocery store cashier, was arrested on July 28.
Rodrigo Roldan, 65, of Coral Way in Neptune Township, a retiree who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Colombia, was arrested on July 20.
Eric C. Scherzer, 38, of Benton Avenue, of the Leonardo section of Middletown, an electronics technician, was arrested on Aug. 23.
James Simmons, 69, of Harding Road in Freehold Township, a retired computer scientist and former federal government contractor, was arrested on July 26.
Frederick Simzer, 30, of Monique Circle in Hazlet, a swimming pool maintenance worker, was arrested on Aug. 18.
Jude I. Taylor, 38, of Bridge Avenue in Red Bank, a landscaper, was arrested on July 25.
Martin Velazquez-Rodriguez, 52, of 1st Avenue in Asbury Park, a factory worker, was arrested on Aug. 30.
Dale E. Williams, Jr., 46, of Leonard Avenue in Middletown, a construction worker, was arrested on July 21.
This article was first published in the Sept. 21-28, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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