NEW JERSEY — Forty men have been arrested in New Jersey and charged with possessing and/or distributing child pornography, including one man accused of having more than 76,000 files of materials, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General said Thursday.
The men were arrested as part of Operation Statewide, and included at least one man from every county in the state.
“These men come from any different walks of life," said NJ Attorney General Christopher Porrino. "They all allegedly share the depraved desire to watch children being raped.”
Of the 40 men arrested, 37 were also charged with distribution of images, an attorney general press release states.
“It’s widely accepted that a percentage of those obtaining child porn will be involved at some point in sexual assault of children, so these arrests may actually prevent the abuse of some future victims,” Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of New Jersey State Police, said of the operation.
Those arrested are ages 20 to 72, and include a former teacher who worked in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania; factory workers; an accountant; computer professionals; salesmen; food service workers; and a custodian for the Long Branch School District, according to the attorney general. Some even worked with children.
“It’s the worst of all worlds, right? You have someone who is targeting videos and images of child rape potentially working among children," Porrino said.
A "large percentage" are unemployed, and two are undocumented immigrants.
John Defay Jr., a 47-year-old from Pitman, was arrested on July 13 and is accused of having the largest collection of those arrested.
More than 76,000 files were found in Defay’s possession, including a “large number” of video files, the news release states.
Another arrestee, Shawn Bovasso of Howell, also 47, allegedly had more than 5,000 files at the time of his July 15 arrest.
Additionally, two assault weapons were located, and are currently being examined to see if additional charges will be brought against Bovasso, investigators said.
Of those arrested, a “number of seized computers each had more than 1,000 juvenile pornographic images and videos stored.”
And nine men charged with distributing 25 of more images face a mandatory minimum of five years without parole in state prison if convicted.
Investigators followed digital fingerprints of child pornography images online as they were sent and received, and used internet addresses to trace the images to actual addresses, the news release states.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, whether you think you can hide yours crimes by viewing these vile images in the dark seclusion of you home," Porrino said. "We’re monitoring you on the internet and we will track you down and arrest you.”
Detectives then went to the homes of the accused to arrest the men, one of whom is accused of having been downloading images at the time of his arrest.
Operation Statewide was coordinated by New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and lead by New Jersey State Police.
PIX11's Christie Duffy contributed to this report.