TRENTON, NJ — New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the arrest of 24 men, including one Filipino, in a sex sting operation called “Operation Open House.”
It’s an undercover operation that targeted men who are using social media or chat apps to lure underage boys and girls for sex.
But instead of preying on minors, the 24 men ended up preying upon undercover agents who posed as children.
“When they showed up at our undercover house, seeking to meet their intended victims for sex, they were arrested, the defendants are now charged with serious crimes,” said Grewal. “Among those arrested are a police office, a nurse.”
That nurse is Christopher Vargas, a 29-year-old Fil-Am from Toms River, according to the attorney general’s office.
The Filipino suspected child predator thought he was chatting with a 15-year-old boy home alone – only to find out that boy is actually an undercover officer.
He was arrested and charged with second-degree attempted luring or enticing a child with a purpose to commit a criminal offense against the child.
“We want child predators to know that we are on social media too, and that the next child they target may be the undercover officer waiting for them who puts them in handcuffs. That is the message of Operation Open House.”
In an email to ABS-CBN News, the Attorney General’s office said that Vargas has been released pending trial with monitoring conditions.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, and a fine of up to $150,000.
“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,” said Veronica Allende.
Grewal says parents also need to do their part to help keep children safe online.
These are some of the apps used by child predators targeting children on the internet and on social media.
“It’s absolutely critical that parents familiarize themselves with these apps just as you are vigilant about a stranger approaching your child in a park, you need to be equally if not more vigilant about the dangers lurking in these cyber playgrounds. Make sure that the apps on your children’s devices are age appropriate, talks to your children about social media and chat apps like these.”
He warns that parents should let their kids know that the people they chat with online may not always be who they initially seem to be.