ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCES ARREST OF SEX OFFENDERS SURFING SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
Offenders arrested for violating parole and law restricting access to the Internet
Trenton – Three registered sex offenders were arrested today and yesterday by New Jersey State Police detectives for violating their conditions of parole by accessing the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, Attorney General Anne Milgram announced today.
The offenders, all of whom had previously been convicted of sexual offenses against children, were charged with violating provisions of a new law which went into effect in January restricting Internet access by convicted sex offenders. Each of those arrested had signed a document for their parole officers that explained the provisions of the new law as it affected Megan’s Law registrants.
The arrests followed a four-month long investigation by the State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit with the assistance of the State Parole Board, which has joined the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The investigation was initiated by Attorney General Anne Milgram after a separate civil investigation coordinated by the Division of Consumer Affairs determined there were hundreds of registered sex offenders with accounts on social networking sites.
“Our earlier investigations made it shockingly clear how vigilant we must be in guarding against the danger of sexual offenders surfing social networking sites to search for and contact potential victims,’’ Milgram said. “Social networking sites cannot be playgrounds for sexual predators.”
"Social networking sites provide a meaningful way for people to communicate via a virtual community,’’ added Col. Rick Fuentes, the State Police superintendent. “But they are potentially dangerous by also offering sexual predators ‘one stop shopping’ to locate and groom victims."
Arrested yesterday were Stanton Ulmer, 32, of Neptune Township, and Felice Black, 24, of Paterson. Pietro Parisi, 34, of Westville was arrested this morning. The investigation found Ulmer had a Facebook account, and Black and Parisi had MySpace accounts. Detectives also seized computers, a webcam, and a cell phone. The investigation is continuing.
Each was charged with violating the provisions of parole supervision and released on their own recognizance pending court appearances. Ulmer had been convicted in 1999 for aggravated sexual assault; Black was convicted in 2005 for endangering the welfare of a child; and Parisi was convicted in 1996 of endangering the welfare of a child and in 2003 of sexual assault.
The investigation was coordinated by Lt. Keith Halton, the assistant bureau chief of the Computer Crimes and High Tech Surveillance Bureau of the New Jersey State Police, and Lt. Joe Furlong of the Digital Technology Investigations Unit. It was directly supervised by Detective Sgt. Charles Allen, and included the participation of investigators from the New Jersey Parole Board.
“Our use of the Containment Approach to sex offender supervision requires proactive intelligence sharing with law enforcement partners,” Parole Board Chairman Peter J. Barnes Jr. said. “We are proud to work with the Attorney General and the State Police to prevent new sex crimes and new victimization.”
The Attorney General issued civil subpoenas to social networking sites last year to determine whether registered sex offenders had opened accounts after MySpace.com disclosed that it had been able to identify thousands of convicted sex offenders who had established profiles on the social networking site. New Jersey authorities determined there were at least 268 registered New Jersey sex offenders with MySpace accounts. In addition, Facebook identified 23 account holders as potential registered sex offenders in New Jersey.
In November, the State Parole Board drafted new supervision conditions for all sex offenders under the agency’s supervision, prohibiting them from using the Internet to socialize or use social networking websites. Violation of this supervision condition may result in a criminal complaint or parole warrant. Currently, there are more than 4,600 sex offenders under the State Parole Board’ supervision. In December, legislation was passed tightening access to the Internet for convicted sex offenders. The law, which was sponsored by Senate President Richard Codey, strengthened the Parole Board’s Internet restriction by imposing a new criminal penalty.
Attorney General Milgram has focused on ways to make the Internet safer from the dangers posed by sexual predators and cyber bullies, and recently entered a voluntary partnership with Facebook to test a reporting abuse mechanism developed by her office to make it easier for Internet users to identify and quickly report inappropriate, abusive or potentially illegal activities on-line.
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