A Jersey City man was among 31 arrested statewide as part of “Operation 24/7,” a statewide sex offender sting, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Ndachi Ndungu, 25, of Jersey City, was arrested on May 28th and charged with attempted manufacturing child pornography and attempted theft by extortion, both second-degree crimes, Grewal said in a statement.
Ndungu allegedly attempted to extort a 12-year-old girl he encountered on the gaming app Discord to send him sexually explicit photos of herself.
Further investigation by the New Jersey State Police and state Division of Criminal Justice revealed that Ndungu allegedly chatted with numerous other potential victims between the ages of 7 and 15 on Discord. Ndungu allegedly used the same method with each of his victims.
He would allegedly obtain an image of the child and then threaten to share it on social media or threaten to report the victim to Discord. He allegedly would threaten the children until they agreed to send more explicit photos.
The number of cyber tips to the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force about potential threats to children online—including tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)—remains high during the ongoing COVID emergency, with 3,324 tips received in the first six months of 2021.
That is 39 percent higher than the total of 2,393 tips for the entire year in 2019, and on pace to exceed the total of 6,130 for all of 2020, which included 10 months of the COVID pandemic.
Many cases in the operation stemmed from NCMEC tips, while others stemmed from law enforcement referrals or proactive online investigations.
“Through these collaborative operations with the ICAC Task Force, we are working tirelessly to arrest child predators and those who exploit children by possessing and distributing child sexual abuse materials,” Grewal said in a statement.
“With young people continuing to spend more time on their electronic devices due to the COVID pandemic, we must remain vigilant. 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.”
In past cases, the ICAC Task Force has arrested child predators who used the following chat apps: Kik, Skout, Grindr, Whisper, Omegle, Tinder, Chat Avenue, Chat Roulette, Wishbone, Live.ly, Musical.ly, Paltalk, Yubo, Hot or Not, Down, and Tumblr. Arrests also have been made involving the gaming apps Fortnite, Minecraft, and Discord. Attorney General Grewal urged parents to familiarize themselves with these and other apps and warn their children about sharing information with strangers.
“Through major cooperative efforts like Operation 24/7, we are sending a message to sex offenders that if you threaten or exploit children, we will identify and arrest you,” added NJ Division of Criminal Justice Director Lyndsay Ruotolo.
“In addition to pursuing tips from NCMEC, we routinely conduct proactive investigations on social media platforms and peer-to-peer file-sharing networks to identify online predators and offenders distributing child sexual abuse materials. There can be no higher priority than protecting our children.”
Operation 24/7 was conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, ICAC Task Force, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, and Gloucester Township Police Department.
The men arrested in the three-month operation, which came between April 1st and June 30th, range in age from 18 to 65.
They are variously charged with crimes including attempted human trafficking, attempted sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, sharing obscene material with a minor, attempted theft by extortion, and manufacturing, distribution, and possession of child sexual abuse material.