AG: Weehawken man caught with 13k child porn files on phone as part of statewide bust

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A Weehawken man was arrested after allegedly being caught with over 13,000 child porn files on his cell phone as part of a statewide child predator crackdown as “Operation Home Alone,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced.

Photos courtesy of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Grewal and Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo today announced arrests of 16 alleged child predators in Operation Home Alone,” a multi-agency undercover operation targeting men who allegedly were using social media in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity.

The defendants will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.

The underage “children” were, in fact, undercover officers. Most of the defendants were arrested when they arrived at a residence in Bergen County, where they allegedly expected to find their victim home alone.

Instead, they found law enforcement officers prepared to arrest them and process any evidence seized.

Those arrested include a Ridgewood police officer, a Bronx, N.Y., high school teacher, drivers for two rideshare companies, a minister, a finance lead for an internet service provider, a bank branch office manager, a barbershop owner, a dental hygienist, two takeout food deliverymen, among others.

“The 16 men we arrested allegedly used social media to stalk victims they believed were vulnerable children who could be sexually exploited. Fortunately, their victims were really undercover officers prepared to put them in handcuffs,” Grewal said in a statement.

“Parents need to know that the profiles of underage girls and boys we posted on social media to catch these offenders could easily have been profiles of their own children, who might also be targeted by predators on chat apps and popular gaming sites. Our message to parents with Operation Home Alone is be on guard. Our message to child predators is law enforcement is working overtime to find you and arrest you.”

Luis Gonzalez Palacio, 36, of Weehawken, is a finance lead for a major internet service provider and allegedly thought he was chatting with a 14-year-old boy.

Palacio is accused of having more than 13,000 suspected files of child pornography on his phone when he was arrested. He was charge with luring, attempted sexual assault on a minor and possession of child pornography.

The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice will be prosecuting his case.

The arrests in Operation Home Alone were made over a five-day period between April 11th and April 15th. Seven defendants travelled to the undercover house from locations in New York State, and one traveled from Philadelphia.

The defendants are variously charged with second-degree luring, second-degree attempted sexual assault on a minor, and third-degree attempted debauching the morals of a child.

Additionally, two men face third-degree charges of attempted showing obscene material to a minor for allegedly sending photographs of their genitals to undercover detectives.

On top of that, two men are charged with having child pornography on their electronic devices, including one who allegedly had more than 13,000 files of suspected child pornography on his phone and a second who was already facing sentencing on a prior child pornography charge filed by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.

The undercover law enforcement members who conducted the chats with the defendants were specially trained members of the ICAC Task Force. The defendants typically initiated contact based on profiles posted on social media platforms by the undercover detectives and agents.

The social platforms that were used in these encounters included Kik, Skout, Grindr, Tinder, MeetMe, and Adam4Adam.

Once chatting began, the undercover officers clearly identified themselves as underage girls or boys.

Despite that information, the defendants allegedly engaged the purported “children” in conversations about sex and made arrangements to meet the “children” for sex.

More information regarding the other 15 people from outside Hudson County who were arrested in the sting can be read here.