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HAMILTON TWP. - A nine-month, multi-agency task force initiative has led to the arrests of 79 child predators and child pornography offenders statewide including a Burlington County military officer who tried to have sexual contact with a teenage girl, an Atlantic County man who told girls to perform live sex acts while he watched on his phone, and three Cumberland County brothers with thousands of child-porn files, authorities said.

Operation Safety Net “targeted sex offenders who exploited the internet and social media,” Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said Friday. The accused range in age from 14 to 75.

“The men we arrested lurked in the shadows of the internet and social media, looking for opportunities to sexually assault young children or to view such unspeakable assaults by sharing child pornography,” said Porrino while making the announcement at the Hamilton Technology Center.

“We set up a wide safety net in this operation to snare these alleged predators and to protect children, which remains our highest priority," Porrino said. "With our new mobile forensics lab and electronics-sniffing dog, we’re even better equipped to uncover the evidence that will keep these offenders behind bars, where they cannot threaten or further exploit vulnerable victims.” 

The New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force initiative resulted in arrests in every county in the state. They include child sex traffickers from out of state, men who attempted to lure minors for sex, a camp counselor who allegedly assaulted a 14-year-old girl and a youth minister sent lewd photos to a teenage girl, authorities said.

“We charged 10 men with hands-on predatory conduct against children, including attempted interstate trafficking of children for sex, sexual assault, luring, sending obscene images to a child, or manufacturing child pornography,” said Porrino. “These cases highlight the fact that viewing child pornography is part of a continuum of deviant behavior that often leads to or drives other sex crimes.”

Two of those 10 cases involved South Jersey men:

  • Donald Beckwith, 34, of Browns Mills, an Air Force captain stationed in New Jersey. Authorities said he used an online chat group for children to meet a 14-year-old girl and have sexual conversations with her. Beckwith allegedly met the child twice in Delaware; he tried to reach under her shirt to touch her breast, hugged the teen and asked her to lie on a bed in his vehicle to watch a movie, authorities said. He also had more than 10 nude images of an underage girl on his phone, detectives said. Beckwith is charged with sexual solicitation of a minor and attempt to commit unlawful sexual contact with a minor.
  • Brandon Morris, 24, of Hammonton. He used the FaceTime app to have conversations with underage girls, “instructing them to perform sexual acts on themselves, which he recorded,” the Attorney General’s Office said. Prosecutors charged him with manufacturing child pornography, endangering the welfare of a child by sexual conduct, conveying obscene materials to a child and possession of child pornography. 

The Operation Safety Net arrests also include three brothers from Millville, according to Porrino.

Kody Knotts, 22; Alexander Knotts, 27; and Kyle Knotts, 23, had a combined total of almost 5,000 files of suspected child pornography, authorities allege.

Had they been charged under a new law taking effect in 2018, they would have qualified to be classified as “super-possessors” and faced tougher penalties, Porrino said.

Other South Jersey residents charged through Operation Safety Net with possession of child porn include:

  • Donald Williams, 39, of Camden.
  • Paul Fuhs, 44, of Laurel Springs.
  • Robert Ruff, 56, of Delran.
  • Fortino Rosales-Rodriguez, 22, of Oaklyn.
  • John T. Ruffner, 37, of Lumberton.
  • John Parsons, 50, of Vineland.

South Jersey residents charged with possession and distribution of child porn include:

  • Ryan Stemetzki, 26, of Maple Shade.
  • Michael Brown, 28, of Pennsauken.
  • Nelson Cintron, Jr., 54, of Collingswood.
  • John Skubiak, 62, of Deptford.
  • Erik Baez, 38, of Sicklerville.
  • Julio Garcia, 29, of Bridgeton.

“The individuals who share this horrific material will not stop unless they are apprehended and removed from the public,” said Col. Patrick Callahan, acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The nine-month investigation … has ensured that children throughout the country will not fall victim to the actions of these depraved individuals. These arrests should put anyone looking to engage in this behavior on notice that law enforcement will be relentless in our efforts to put them behind bars.”

Among the most serious charges announced by Attorney General's Office are against a California man. George Castillo, 36, of Inglewood, is facing federal charges of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and production of child pornography, as well as New Jersey charges including first-degree conspiracy to commit child trafficking.

Castillo was caught in an online sting operation after he allegedly solicited an undercover New Jersey State Police detective, who pretended to be trafficking children, to fly a 4-year-old girl to Los Angeles so he could sexually assault her. Castillo also allegedly solicited a Washington, D.C. detective, who posed as a father, to bring his "9-year-old daughter," to Los Angeles for sex. Castillo was arrested April 4 at Los Angeles International Airport.

“The charges against Castillo reveal a dangerous child predator who went to great lengths in the belief that he was flying two very young girls to California so he could sexually assault them,” said Porrino. “Had we not arrested him with our federal and California partners, the allegations indicate he would have continued to seek victims, including children as young as toddlers.”

An undercover New Jersey State Police detective also assisted in the apprehension of a Brownsburg, Ind., man. Joseph Donohew, 26, allegedly offered money to the undercover Jersey detective, whom he met on social media, in exchange for sex with a 9-year-old girl. He sent the detective a $100 down payment and was arrested at an Indiana gas station when he arrived to meet the girl. Authorities said Donohew had purchased a Disney nightgown for the girl with her favorite characters.

“We’ve made these proactive child protection investigations a top priority by adding more staff for them at the state level and considerable new resources,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “There’s no question that by collaborating across all levels of law enforcement and arresting these offenders, we protected innocent children who might otherwise have been sexually abused and exploited.”

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