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New Jersey authorities busted 31 men in a widespread investigation into online sexual predators and exploitation of children through social media and gaming apps, the state attorney general announced on Wednesday.
Men ranging in age from 18 to 65 years old were nabbed between April and June on charges ranging from sexual assault to possession of child sex abuse materials, including child rape videos, Attorney General Grewal said.
“With young people continuing to spend more time on their electronic devices due to the COVID pandemic, we must remain vigilant,” Grewal said in a statement.
“We urge parents and guardians to warn children about the threats that exist on social media and popular gaming sites, and to watch for signs that a child has been subjected to online abuse.”
Among the accused is 20-year-old Ryan Olson who allegedly played a sick game on social media where victims earned points by sending sexually explicit material – with more points given for more sexually explicit images and video, the AG said.
Another one of the accused, Ndachi Ndungu, 25, allegedly extorted a 12-year-old girl through the gaming app Discord to send explicit images.
Robert Reinhart, 52, offered $300 to have sex with a 14-year-old, communicating with an undercover officer posing as the girl’s sister, according to the prosecutor’s office. The girl didn’t actually exist, the AG said.
Of the accused, 27 are charged with possession or distribution of child sex materials, according to the office.
Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey said in a statement that the multi-jurisdictional effort uncovered “unsettling” accusations.
“The individuals arrested in our county all had professions that interact with the public: a medical assistant, a train operator, and restaurant workers,” Linskey said.
There’s been a spike in tips against online sexual predators during the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey, through the Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to office data.
There were 3,324 tips in the first half of 2021, which is already more than the 2,393 tips for all of 2019, the AG said. There were 6,130 tips in 2020, according to the data.
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