Police officer, teacher among 16 adults arrested for trying to lure teens for sex

TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey police officer and a New York City high school teacher are among 16 men who allegedly tried to set up sexual encounters with people they thought were teenage boys and girls.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the arrests Wednesday. They were made as part of “Operation Home Alone,” a multiagency undercover sting that targeted people who allegedly used social media in an attempt to lure children.

Grewal said most of the defendants were arrested when they arrived at a residence in Bergen County, where they expected to find the victim home alone. The arrests were made from April 11-15.

The defendants face various charges including luring and attempted sexual assault.

Those arrested include a Ridgewood police officer, a Bronx high school teacher, drivers of rideshare companies a minister and dental hygienist and a barbershop owner.

They are variously charged with second-degree luring, second-degree attempted sexual assault on a minor and third-degree attempted debauching the morals of a child. Two men face third-degree charges of attempted showing obscene material to a minor for allegedly sending photos of their genitals to the undercover detectives.

Two men are charged with having child pornography on their electronic devices, including one who had more than 13,000 files on his phone.

“The 16 men we arrested allegedly used social media to stalk victims they believed were vulnerable children who could be sexually exploited. Fortunately, their victims were really undercover officers prepared to put them in handcuffs,” Grewal said.

“Operation Home Alone is a great example of our collaborative efforts to guard children from the ever-present danger of online predators,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice.  “We will continue to partner with the State Police, the County Prosecutors, the ICAC Task Force, HSI, the FBI, and law enforcement at all levels to apprehend these sex offenders who exploit the anonymity of social media to prey on those who are most vulnerable.”

Parents are advised to be aware of their children’s internet activities, including who they talk to when online.

The following 16 men were arrested in Operation Home Alone: