TRENTON — A statewide investigation into child pornography distribution has led to charges against 79 men, state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced Friday.
They include three men from Atlantic County, one from Cape May County and five from Cumberland County, including three brothers.
The nine-month investigation, named Operation Safety Net, was a multiple-agency initiative led by the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that targeted sex offenders using the internet and social media.
Porrino said in a statement arrests were made in every county in New Jersey. The arrests included 10 “hands-on” offenders, directly involved with soliciting, photographing or transporting victims. Two of the men, one from California and one from Indiana, allegedly engaged in interstate human trafficking and solicitation for sex with children.
Those arrested range in age from 17 to 75.
Defendants charged with amassing and/or distributing large collections of child pornography include a Trenton police officer, an Ocean County piano teacher and three brothers in Millville who allegedly had nearly 5,000 files of child pornography.
“We charged 10 men with hands-on predatory conduct against children, including attempted interstate trafficking of children for sex, sexual assault, luring, sending obscene images to a child, or manufacturing child pornography,” Porrino said. “These cases highlight the fact that viewing child pornography is part of a continuum of deviant behavior that often leads to or drives other sex crimes.”
Authorities said George Castillo, 36, of California, and Joseph Donohew, 26 of Indiana, solicited or offered money to undercover State Police detectives. Castillo faces several federal charges, including transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and production of child pornography, and charges in New Jersey, including conspiracy to commit child trafficking. Donohew faces attempted child-molestation charges, Porrino said.
An Atlantic County man was charged with being a “hands-on” offender. Brandon Morris, 24, of Hammonton, was charged with manufacturing child pornography, endangering the welfare of a child by sexual conduct, conveying obscene materials to a child and possession of child pornography. He is accused of engaging underage girls in FaceTime conversations, instructing them to perform sexual acts on themselves and recording them.
Morris was arrested Oct. 27, Porrino said.
On July 21, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law that will impose stricter penalties on those possessing and distributing mass quantities of child pornography. It will take effect Feb. 1. The new law expands the definition of child pornography to include child erotica.
Under the new law, the three brothers from Millville and a man from Ocean County would be considered “super-possessors,” but they cannot be charged under the harsher penalties because they were charged before the new law goes into effect.
Millville brothers Kody Knotts, 22, Alexander Knotts, 27, and Kyle Knotts, 23, had a combined total of nearly 5,000 files of suspected child pornography, Porrino said. The Knottses’ were charged with third-degree possession of child pornography.
Pasquale “Charles” Albano, 75, of Point Pleasant, Ocean County, had more than 1,000 files of suspected child pornography, Porrino said. Albano was also charged with third-degree possession of child pornography.
Eight other people in The Press coverage area were charged in Operation Safety Net, according to Porrino’s statement.
In Atlantic County, Anthony Gerace, 43, of Egg Harbor Township, was charged with distribution of child pornography. Antonio Baang, 26, of Galloway Township, was charged with possession of child pornography.
In Cape May County, Robert King, 63, of North Wildwood, was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.
In Cumberland County, John Parsons, 50, of Vineland, was charged with possession of child pornography. Julio Garcia, 29, of Bridgeton, was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.
In Ocean County, piano teacher Bryan San Andreas, 37, of Toms River, was charged with possession of child pornography. Joseph Maruca, 26, of Berkeley Township, was charged with possession of child pornography. Eric MacAfee, 41, of Seaside Heights, was charged with possession of child pornography.
Operation Safety Net used two new tools in its investigation: a State Police electronics detection dog, Mega, who was used to locate hidden or disguised media storage devices, and the Division of Criminal Justice’s new cyber forensics van, Porrino said.
According to Porrino, the ICAC Task Force investigated numerous cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and began proactive investigations by monitoring file-sharing networks, identifying the IP address of individuals sharing pornography files and undercover chat investigations on social media.Contact: 609-272-7286 LCarroll@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPress_LC
New Jersey is becoming more racially diverse, but its schools are becoming more segregated, according to the latest report from the UCLA Civil Rights Project.
The report released this month, “New Jersey’s Segregated Schools: Trends and Paths Forward,” says racial and economic segregation in schools is mostly the result of segregated communities. This sort of segregation can have a detrimental impact on minority student outcomes, studies have shown.
“I think there’s pretty much no question that, overall, students benefit from being in a diverse setting,” said Paul Tractenberg, a national expert in public education, a former professor at Rutgers University and founder of the Education Law Center.
The latest report, which includes data through 2015, is an update of a 2013 report that drew attention statewide after it pointed out racial and economic segregation patterns from 1989 to 2010. Tractenberg collaborated with Civil Rights Project co-founder Gary Orfield and his team on the 2013 report, sparking his interest in the topic.
“People have put it off the table for discussion, but the reality is that we’re getting more and more powerful data showing it’s a life-changing problem,” said Orfield, who co-authored the report.
Orfield is a professor at UCLA and co-director and co-founder of the Civil Rights Project. He said the organization has been consistently looking at this topic on a national level for its 21 years of existence but a few years ago started delving into state data.
Data from the report show that school population in New Jersey is becoming less white and more Hispanic. Despite the increase in minority populations, schools continue to be segregated in urban areas, mainly along the New Jersey Turnpike corridor, the data show, but also near Atlantic City. The proportion of schools serving less than 1 percent white students — 8 percent — has nearly doubled in the last 25 years. At the same time, the exposure of black and Hispanic students to white students is decreasing.
Not all schools suffer from a diversity problem. In South Jersey, analysis of enrollment data from the New Jersey Department of Education from the 73 school districts in The Press coverage area shows a diverse population with small concentrations of segregated school districts, mainly near Atlantic City.
Tractenberg said he was hopeful when he saw about 15 percent of school districts in the state actually do mimic the racial makeup of the state. He said Atlantic County is home to five of the 19 most proportional districts in the state: Buena Regional, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Greater Egg Harbor Regional and Somers Point.
“That’s 26.3 percent, the highest percentage of any county,” he said.
Last month, the Egg Harbor Township School District held a strategic planning meeting where more than 100 community and faculty members were tasked with coming up with the pros and cons of the school district. Many of the groups in the meeting pointed to the district’s diversity as a positive.
The district is 46 percent white, 25 percent Hispanic, 14 percent Asian and 10 percent black. Superintendent Kim Gruccio said the diversity is great exposure for all students.
“We’re in the business of education, but we’re very fortunate to be diverse, and that’s education right there,” she said. “They embrace it, and we coexist with a mutual respect for one another.”
Egg Harbor Township High School Principal Terry Charlton said the diversity also helps spur conversations and lessons that may not have otherwise happened.
“Students bring up things in class that really make the students engage because of their cultural backgrounds,” Charlton said.
Tractenberg said the biggest educational benefits from diverse schools are for minority and low-income students, but there’s also evidence that white and Asian students, who don’t suffer a disadvantage, may also achieve greater. Then there are the cultural and social benefits of a diverse school.
“To function at maximum effectiveness in that multicultural world is experience in doing it,” Tractenberg said. “The earlier they start that process, the better off we’ll all be.”
There is hope for New Jersey if more focus can be put into diversifying communities, improving school-choice options and better training for educators, students and community leaders, the report states.
Orfield said it was true that not everything can be desegregated, but there are options to help integrate students, including school choice, county technical schools and regional magnet programs. He said school districts and towns should be intentionally pursuing integration.
Tractenberg said New Jersey has to make a plan to deal with segregation in schools, and that should start with housing. He said much of the housing segregation that exists is not happenstance but the result of government and legal intervention through housing policies and zoning rules.
Another way to address segregation might be the most controversial: Taking away home rule of school districts.
“The state has chosen to assign responsibilities for carrying out education to local school districts, but that’s not part of the constitutional structure,” Tractenberg said. “The Legislature of N.J. tomorrow could abolish all school districts and say we’re running everything out of Trenton.”
What’s the likelihood of change? That depends, Tractenberg said.
“I believe (Gov.-elect) Phil Murphy has a lot of progressive instincts. He’s identified school desegregation as something he’d like to see happen under his administration. Is he going to bite some of these bullets that are going to be explosive?” Tractenberg asked.
Timothy Frazier, of Galloway Township, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Camden to defrauding New Jersey state health benefits programs and other insurers of $800,000, according to acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick and N.J. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino.
Frazier, 42, submitted fraudulent claims for medically unnecessary prescriptions, Fitzpatrick said.
Frazier, a commercial construction estimator, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, Fitzpatrick said.
Eleven other conspirators have pleaded guilty from August through last month and await sentencing.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
From January 2015 through April 2016, Frazier served as a recruiter in the conspiracy and persuaded individuals in the state to obtain expensive and medically unnecessary compounded medications from an out-of-state pharmacy, identified in the information only as the “Compounding Pharmacy.”
The conspirators learned certain compound medication prescriptions — including pain, scar, anti-fungal and libido creams, as well as vitamin combinations — were reimbursed for thousands of dollars for a one-month supply.
The conspirators also learned some New Jersey state and local government and education employees, including firefighters, municipal police officers, state troopers and teachers, had insurance coverage for the compound medications.
An entity referred to in the information as the “Pharmacy Benefits Administrator” provided pharmacy benefit management services to the State Health Benefits Program, which covers qualified state and local government employees, retirees and eligible dependents, and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program, which covers qualified local education employees, retirees and eligible dependents.
The pharmacy benefits administrator would pay prescription drug claims and then bill the state for the amount paid.
Frazier secured insurance information from the individuals and passed it along to a conspirator, who had a doctor sign prescriptions without examining the individuals. The prescriptions were faxed to the compounding pharmacy, which filled the prescriptions and billed the pharmacy benefits administrator.
The pharmacy then paid one of Frazier’s conspirators a percentage of each prescription filled and paid by the pharmacy benefits administrator, which was then distributed to Frazier and other members of the conspiracy.
Frazier paid recruiters under him and individuals with insurance coverage to reward them for obtaining prescriptions, Fitzpatrick said.
According to the information, the pharmacy benefits administrator paid the compounding pharmacy more than $50 million for compounded medications mailed to individuals in the state. Frazier received $145,425 for his role in the scheme, Fitzpatrick said.
As part of the plea agreement, Frazier must forfeit $145,425 in criminal proceeds and pay restitution of at least $801,119, Fitzpatrick said.
Frazier faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for March 29, Fitzpatrick said.
Patricia Foglio-Geller stood in front of about 40 people on Friday morning at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City with a light-up tiara on her head.
She quickly removed the tiara to discuss something serious: AIDS education in South Jersey.
Foglio-Geller was one of the speakers for the hospital’s ceremony for World AIDS Day. The event was to honor individuals who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS and those living with the disease.
Foglio-Geller is one of those people. The Ocean City resident has been living with AIDS for 25 years and wanted to let people know about her story and how they can avoid the disease.
“Whatever I can give them, maybe a condom or information that they can get tested here and that it (only) takes minutes,” Foglio-Geller said.
According to the state’s Department of Health, more than 1,300 Atlantic County residents are living with HIV/AIDS.
Foglio-Geller was diagnosed in 1992 after sharing a needle with her now-deceased husband, who was diagnosed in 1984. That same year (1992) was also the year for the most diagnosed cases (98) in Atlantic County in the last 27 years.
She learned about her diagnosis upstairs at the same hospital she was speaking at Friday. While her illness doesn’t define her, and she has found success speaking at events locally, she said she is concerned about younger generations and their lack of concern.
Dr. Edward Hamaty said that could be alarming.
“The medicine is progressing, but the social side may be slipping, and we can’t have that,” he said.
Hamaty, who is the chairman of the Department of Critical Care for AtlantiCare, said he saw what the early years of HIV looked like in the 1980s and ‘90s. When he worked in Center City Philadelphia, he remembers prostitutes and drug addicts getting tested every week.
It was a different time when the disease was newfound.
“We had no idea what we were dealing with, although, contrary to what the movies or TV said, we pretty quickly clued into the fact that it has got to be a virus,” Hamaty said.
Hamaty said that started learning that it was imperative to provide education on how to be safe, whether through drug programs or sex education.
“I think, as science progressed and we were able to wrap our hands around it, then it was easier for health care systems to adapt. But in the beginning, we had no idea what we were dealing with and had never seen anything like this before. But now we use it as the model for viruses,” he said.
On Friday, Hamaty said, the event was both a positive for survivors and a reminder to be assertive with education about the disease.
“(Today) is a celebration, but the remembrance is that we can’t forget the lessons we’ve learned,” Hamaty said.
Also Friday, AtlantiCare recognized winners and participants of its World AIDS Day Poster Contest. About 30 Atlantic City High School students submitted pieces for the contest, and many submissions have been displayed on the hospital’s campus since Nov. 21. First place went to sophomore Maya Hendrix, second place to junior Faith Grigsby and third place to freshman Ingrid Daniel Castillo.
After the ceremony, Patricia Foglio-Geller stood next to the students’ posters. She’s attended every ceremony since the hospital started it. She said it was nice to tell her story to a new group of young people.
“This is my calling, and I look forward to it,” she said. “I’m alive, I’m good to go and I feel good.”