NJ officials arrest 24 alleged child predators in 'Operation Open House'

- On Monday, New Jersey officials announced the arrests of 24 alleged child predators stemming from a multi-agency undercover operation dubbed 'Operation Open House.'

Authorities say the suspects attempted to use social media apps — including Kik, Skout, Whisper and Grindr — to lure underage boys and girls for sex. The underage “children” were, in fact, undercover officers.

Most of the defendants were arrested when they arrived at a house in Toms River, New Jersey, where they allegedly expected to find their victim home alone. Instead, they were met with dozens of law enforcement officers.

Those arrested include a Howell Township police sergeant, 47-year-old Richard Conte, who allegedly attempted to meet an undercover officer posing as 15-year-old girl for sex. Investigators say Conte claimed in online chats that he was 19, and he had condoms in his pocket when he was arrested.

MORE: NJ police officer charged with trying to lure teen for sex

“It is disturbing that some of the alleged child predators from this operation held positions of public service and authority,” said Col. Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “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.“

The arrests were made over a five-day period from Sept. 5 through Sept. 9. In addition to Conte, those arrested include a nurse, a firefighter, college students and a registered sex offender. One defendant traveled to the undercover house all the way from his home in the Bronx.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal urged parents to familiarize themselves with these apps and warn their children about sharing information with strangers.

“If children appear anxious or evasive when this topic is raised, it may be a red flag,” said Grewal.

Below are the 24 men arrested as a result of the sting operation. All face second-degree charges of attempted luring or enticing a child with a purpose to commit a criminal offense against the child. Additional charges are as indicated.

  • 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)
  • Christopher Vargas, 29, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Vargas is a registered nurse.
  • 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)
  • Joseph Martin, 35, of Seaside Heights, N.J. (Girl, 14) Martin is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)
  • Richard Hoffman, 23, of Mays Landing, N.J. (Girl, 14) Hoffman is a firefighter and a college student.
  • 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)
  • Thomas Graciano, 28, of Brick, N.J. (Boy, 15) Graciano is a physical therapist in a retirement community.
  • 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)
  • Richard Conte, 47, of Farmingdale, N.J. (Girl, 15) Conte is a police sergeant with the Howell Township Police Department.
  • 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)
  • Zachary Vincent, 24, of Forked River, N.J. (Girl, 15) Vincent is a landscaper. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)
  • 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)
  • Jonathan Vece, 22, of Turnersville, N.J. (Girl, 14) Vece is a canvasser. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)
  • Lawrence Ivancic, 51, of Toms River, N.J. (Girl, 14) Ivancic is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)
  • Robert Lisicki, 51, of Metuchen, N.J. (Boy, 15) Lisicki is a train conductor. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)
  • 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)
  • Steven Portnoy, 27, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Girl, 15) Pornoy is unemployed.  Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)
  • 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)
  • Anthony Perfidio, 24, of Barnegat, N.J. (Boy, 15) Perfidio is a data entry clerk.
  • Brian Degnan, 33, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Degnan is a data entry clerk.
  • Nabindranauth Nandalall, 24, of Bronx, N.Y. (Girl, 15) Nandalall is unemployed.
  • William D. Davis, 23, Bayville, N.J. (Girl, 15) Davis is a consultant.
  • Charles Schlottfeld, 26, of Bayville, N.J. (Girl, 14) Schlottfeld is a mechanic. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)
  • Douglass Walton, 54, of Hillsborough, N.J. (Boy, 14) Walton is employed in produce. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

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