Police sergeant among 24 alleged child predators arrested in sting operation in New Jersey

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Police sergeant among 24 alleged child predators arrested in sting. John Rawlins reports during Action News at 4pm on September 18, 2018.

A total of 24 men have been arrested in a sting operation targeting alleged child predators in New Jersey, the state attorney general's office announced on Tuesday.

As part of "Operation Open House," the suspects were lured through social media to a home in Toms River, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said, where they allegedly expected to find their victim home alone.

Instead, they were arrested by waiting police.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal made the announcement Tuesday morning.

"When they showed up at our undercover house seeking to meet their intended victims for sex, they were arrested," said Grewal. "The defendants are now charged with serious crimes and are either behind bars or subject to very stringent pre-trial monitoring."

Among those arrested were a firefighter, a nurse, and 47-year-old Richard Conte, a police sergeant for Howell Township.

"Conte claimed during his chats that he was a 19-year-old male, believing that he was chatting with a 15-year-old girl. He allegedly said that he had had sex with underage girls, and wanted to meet the girl to 'get naked.' He had condoms in his pocket when he was arrested," Grewal said.

Conte has since turned in his weapon to the Howell Township Police Department

Police say, the undercover officers clearly identified themselves as underage girls or boys while chatting with the defendants, and despite that information, the men allegedly engaged in conversations about sex, and made arrangements to meet the "children" for sex.

The chats were conducted over a period of several weeks. Then the "meet-ups" were arranged during a five-day period from September 5 through September 9, at which time arrests were made.

"It is disturbing that some of the alleged child predators from this operation held positions of public service and authority, but behind closed doors they went through great lengths to avoid detection online, frequenting social media sites with the sole purpose of targeting unsuspecting children," said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. "Our troopers and partners on the ICAC Task Force are unfazed by the outward appearances of sex offenders and will continue to turn the tables on predators by luring them out of hiding and bringing them to justice. These arrests serve as a sobering reminder that parents should closely monitor their child's online activity."

All 24 defendants are charged with second-degree luring. Many of them also face additional charges, including second-degree attempted sexual assault on a minor and third-degree attempted debauching the morals of a child. Five of the men face third-degree charges of attempted sharing obscene materials with a child for allegedly sending photos of their genitals to undercover detectives.

The operation was led by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is led by the New Jersey State Police, and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

The following 24 men were arrested in Operation Open House:

1. Mina G. Beshay, 27, of Monroe Township, N.J. (Girl, 15) Beshay is a security guard. Additional charges: Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).
2. Christopher Vargas, 29, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Vargas is a registered nurse.

3. Joshua Rauter, 31, of Little Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Girl, 14) Rauter is a municipal public works employee. Additional charges: Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).

4. Joseph Martin, 35, of Seaside Heights, N.J. (Girl, 14) Martin is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

5. Richard Hoffman, 23, of Mays Landing, N.J. (Girl, 14) Hoffman is a firefighter and a college student.

6. Volvi Lowinger, 23, of Lakewood, N.J. (Girl, 15) Lowinger is a college student. Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree), Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).

7. Thomas Graciano, 28, of Brick, N.J. (Boy, 15) Graciano is a physical therapist in a retirement community.

8. Thomas Blumensteel, 47, of Manchester, N.J. (Boy, 15) Blumensteel is a hotel manager and a registered sex offender. He was sentenced to three years in New Jersey State Prison in 1997 for aggravated criminal sexual contact for sexually assaulting a boy, 13, whom he was supervising as a church counselor. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

9. Richard Conte, 47, of Farmingdale, N.J. (Girl, 15) Conte is a police sergeant with the Howell Township Police Department.

10. Thomas Fuller, 44, Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Fuller is an assistant manager/sterilization technician. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

11. Zachary Vincent, 24, of Forked River, N.J. (Girl, 15) Vincent is a landscaper. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

12. William Singleton, 24, of Pemberton Township, N.J. (Girl, 14) Singleton is a restaurant worker. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

13. Jonathan Vece, 22, of Turnersville, N.J. (Girl, 14) Vece is a canvasser. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

14. Lawrence Ivancic, 51, of Toms River, N.J. (Girl, 14) Ivancic is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
15. Robert Lisicki, 51, of Metuchen, N.J. (Boy, 15) Lisicki is a train conductor. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

16. Dylan Daffron, 28, of Lacey Township, N.J. (Boy, 15) Daffron is a cashier at a retail store. Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree), Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).

17. Steven Portnoy, 27, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Girl, 15) Pornoy is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

18. David Studnicky, 64, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Studnicky is employed as a dry cleaner. Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree), Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).

19. Anthony Perfidio, 24, of Barnegat, N.J. (Boy, 15) Perfidio is a data entry clerk.

20. Brian Degnan, 33, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Degnan is a data entry clerk.

21. Nabindranauth Nandalall, 24, of Bronx, N.Y. (Girl, 15) Nandalall is unemployed.

22. William D. Davis, 23, Bayville, N.J. (Girl, 15) Davis is a consultant.

23. Charles Schlottfeld, 26, of Bayville, N.J. (Girl, 14) Schlottfeld is a mechanic. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

24. Douglass Walton, 54, of Hillsborough, N.J. (Boy, 14) Walton is employed in produce. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).

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