State announces arrests of 79 alleged child predators

New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino described videos of child rape and molestation that were confiscated in a nationwide sting that yielded 79 arrests, mostly from New Jersey.

“These are wicked, vile materials produced by torturing kids,” said Porrino.

During the nine month long investigation, detectives in New Jersey’s Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force went undercover online.

“The men and women who worked on these investigations staked out the internet and social media, catching not only child porn offenders, but as I mentioned … hands-on type offenders seeking to lure children or even enlist adults to traffic kids across state lines, so that they could sexually abuse them,” said Porrino.

Among the 10 alleged “hands-on predators” caught in the sting, dubbed “Operation Safety Net”, is George Castillo of California, who Porrino said solicited detectives to fly a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old girl to Los Angeles.

“Castillo was arrested when he drove to Los Angeles International Airport with a stuffed animal and various sex toys, allegedly to pick up the young children and their escorts to take them to a hotel for what he called a sex party,” said Porrino.

Porrino said Joseph Donohew of Indiana allegedly solicited a detective he thought was a father, who was willing to sell his own 9-year-old daughter for sex.

“This defendant bought the girl a nightgown depicting characters from the Disney movie “Frozen”. The conversations that Donahew allegedly had with our undercover detective about what he planned to do to this 9-year-old girl, I can tell you, was enough to shock and sicken individuals who do this work, day in and day out,” said Porrino.

“When I received this material to be briefed on for this press conference today, I can honestly say, [this was] probably the toughest investigation and the facts within it that I’ve ever had to come across, quite frankly,” said Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

Also arrested: a Bayonne camp counselor for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl; a youth minister from Hopatcong for allegedly texting photos of his genitals to a teenager; and a Browns Mills Air Force captain for allegedly soliciting sex from a 14-year-old. Police used some new tools and techniques to arrest 69 other men, including a Trenton cop for possession and/or intent to distribute child porn images.

K-9 Officer Mega helps officers sniff out electronic equipment

Mega is the only K-9 trooper trained to search and sniff out a chemical signature emitted by electronic storage device that suspects use to conceal kid porn.

“So the dog, it’s a challenge already to locate something as small as a micro SD card that may be hiding underneath a couch. As far as electronic storage detection, you’re looking for devices that could be anywhere,” said Sgt. Timothy Neville of the State Police.

While Mega searched, a new mobile forensics lab processed laptops and phones, cracked passwords and isolated electronics to preserve evidence.

“Let’s say a suspect decided that they wanted to wipe the device remotely, we put it in something like this to prevent that from happening,” said State Police detective Rich DaSilva.

Porrino said he had a message for anyone who would engage in child trafficking and pornography: “We’re coming to your home, with the forensics van and the German Shepherd.”

We’re in this together
For a better-informed future. Support our nonprofit newsroom.
Donate to NJ Spotlight