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24 men, including cop, arrested for allegedly using apps, games to lure children: NJ officials

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — A police officer was among 24 men arrested when New Jersey investigators posed as teenagers to catch child predators using popular apps, games and chats, officials with the N.J. Office of the Attorney General said Tuesday.

Men arrested in September 2018 for alleged child luring are pictured. (N.J. Office of the Attorney General)

The arrests were made after a four-bedroom house in Toms River was filled with dozens of police officers working to catch men accused of trying to lure children.

Unwitting suspects were invited over during "meet week" to see a teen for sex, officials said.

Instead the suspects walked into “operation open house."

"Among those arrested are a police officer, a nurse, a firefighter, college students and a registered sex offender," said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

In all, 24 men are charged.

One drove 90 miles from the Bronx to the undercover Toms River house. Over half are from Ocean County, New Jersey — including Howell Township Police Sgt. Richard Conte. Investigators say Conte used a phone app to target a 15-year-old girl for sex. When arrested, detectives allegedly found condoms in his pocket.

Investigators said they found the predators looking for kids on adult dating apps and through popular kids games.

"Talk to your children about social media and chat apps like these. Let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seem to be," Grewal said.

"As far as some of the games — like for example 'Fortnight,' 'Minecraft,' 'Roblox' — we’ve had all kinds of cases where individuals are posing as someone else other than a 14-year-old in order to gain someones trust," said State Police Lt. John Pizzuro, who is the commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

All of the defendants were detained at the Ocean County Jail until detention hearings were held last week. All but one, a registered sex offender, were released pending trial, but state law enforcement said these men are being very closely watched.

Conte was suspended from the Howell Township Police Department and he is on house arrest.

If convicted, all of these men are facing a minimum of 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 for a second degree charge of child luring. Some face additional second-degree or third degree charges.

Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three of five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Here is a list of all the defendants:

• Mina G. Beshay, 27, of Monroe Township, arrested for luring 15-year-old girl
Occupation: security guard
Additional charges: attempted debauching morals of a child, attempted showing obscene material to a minor
• Christopher Vargas, 29, of Toms River, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy
Occupation: registered nurse
• Joshua Rauter, 31, of Little Egg Harbor Township, arrested for luring 14-year-old girl
Occupation: municipal public works employee
Additional charges: attempted debauching morals of a child, attempted showing obscene material to a minor
• Joseph Martin, 35, of Seaside Heights, arrested for luring 14-year-old girl
Occupation: Unemployed
Additional charges: attempted sexual assault on a minor
• Richard Hoffman, 23, of Mays Landing, arrested for luring 14-year-old girl
Occupation: firefighter and college student
• Volvi Lowinger, 23, of Lakewood, arrested for luring 15-year-old girl
Occupation: college student
Additional charges: attempted sexual assault on a minor, attempted debauching morals of a child, attempted showing obscene material to a minor
• Thomas Graciano, 28, of Brick, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy
Occupation: physical therapist in a retirement community.
• Thomas Blumensteel, 47, of Manchester, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy Blumensteel is registered sex offender and served three years in prison in 1997 for sexually assaulting a boy, 14.
Occupation: hotel manager
Additional charges: sexual assault on a minor
• Richard Conte, 47, of Farmingdale, arrested for luring 15-year-old girl
Occupation: police sergeant with the Howell Township Police Department
• Thomas Fuller, 44, Toms River, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy
Occupation: Assistant manager/sterilization technician
• Zachary Vincent, 24, of Forked River, arrested for luring 15-year-old girl
Occupation: Landscaper
• William Singleton, 24, of Pemberton Township, arrested for luring 14-year-old girl
Occupation: restaurant worker Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor in the second degree.
• Jonathan Vece, 22, of Turnersville, arrested for luring 14-year-old-girl
Occupation: canvasser Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor in the Second Degree.
• Lawrence Ivancic, 51, of Toms River, arrested for luring 14-year-old girl
Occupation: Unemployed Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor in the Second Degree.
• Robert Lisicki, 51, of Metuchen, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy Occupation:Train conductor Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor in the Second Degree.

• Dylan Daffron, 28, of Lacey Township arrested for luring 15-year-old boy Occupation: cashier at a retail store
Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor in the second Degree, Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child in the Third Degree, Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor in the Third Degree.
• Steven Portnoy, 27, of Egg Harbor Township, arrested for luring 14-year-old girl Occupation: unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor in the Second Degree.

• David Studnicky, 64, of Toms River, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy Occupation: Dry Cleaner Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor in the Second Degree, Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child in the Third Degree, Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor in the Third Degree.
• Anthony Perfidio, 24, of Barnegat, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy
Occupation: data entry clerk
• Brian Degnan, 33, of Toms River, arrested for luring 15-year-old boy
• Nabindranauth Nandalall, 24, of the Bronx, N.Y. arrested for luring 15-year-old girl Occupation: Unemployed
• William D. Davis, 23, Bayville, arrested for luring 15-year-old girl
Occupation: consultant
• Charles Schlottfeld, 26, of Bayville, arrested for luring 14-year-old girl
Occupation: mechanic
Additional charge: attempted sexual assault on a minor
• Douglass Walton, 54, of Hillsborough, arrested for luring 14-year-old boy
Occupation: works in produce
Additional charge: attempted sexual assault on a minor