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