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19 alleged child predators arrested in “Operation Open Door”

NEWS RELEASE

Post Date:10/31/2019 1:01 PM

SOMERVILLE, N.J.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives John W. Fodor, New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan and Division of Criminal Justice Director Veronica Allende announced the arrests of 19 alleged child predators in “Operation Open Door”.

Prosecutor Robertson stated that “Operation Open Door” was a multi-agency undercover operation that sought individuals using social media applications to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity. These “underage children” were actually undercover law enforcement officers who are specially trained members of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.  The defendants arrested in this operation initiated contact based on profiles posted by the undercover law enforcement officers on social media platforms. Once chatting began, the undercover officers clearly identified themselves as underage girls or boys.  Despite that information, the defendants engaged the “children” in conversations about sex and made arrangements to meet the “children” for sex. Most defendants were arrested when they arrived at one of two residences in Somerset County, where they expected to find their victims home alone.

The arrests in “Operation Open Door” were made over a six-day period from October 23 through October 28.  One defendant travelled to one of the undercover houses from Pennsylvania.  Two of the defendants lived out-of-state and were in New Jersey for work when they decided to travel to meet with a “child’ for sex. The defendants are variously charged with first-degree promoting prostitution of a child under the age of 18, second-degree luring, second-degree attempted sexual assault of a minor, third-degree attempted endangering the welfare by debauching the morals of a child, and third-degree attempt to promote obscene material to a child. The defendants will be prosecuted by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.

The undercover residences were staffed with dozens of law enforcement officers from around the State, forensic examiners, and attorneys from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.  Electronic devices were seized from the defendants and examinations of those devices are ongoing. The investigative review of the forensic examinations is a lengthy process and will enable investigators to determine if the devices contain evidence of any prior encounters by the defendants with underage victims, which might constitute additional cases of luring, sexual assault or child endangerment.

The following 19 men were arrested in “Operation Open Door”. They believed that they were communicating with a minor described in the parentheses. The defendants are charged as indicated and were lodged in the Somerset County Jail pending detention hearings.

  1. Brayan Alvarado, 25 of Middlesex, N.J. (14) Alvarado is a volunteer fireman and driver for an electric company. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  2. Jihaad Brown, 23 of Franklin Park, N.J. (14) Brown is retail salesman. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  3. Michael Brown, 28 of Edison, N.J. (14) Brown is a mail tester. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault, and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  4. Julio Cubia-Aviles, 27 of West Orange, N.J. (14) Cubia-Aviles is a carpenter. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault, and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  5. Brian Davis, 28 of Somerset, N.J. (14) Davis is a security guard. Charges are 2nd degree Attempted Promotion of Prostitution of a Child, 2nd degree Luring, and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  6. Asif Iqbal, 53 of Mount Holly, N.J. (14) Iqbal is a business owner. Charges are 2nd degree Attempted Promotion of Prostitution of a Child, 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault, and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  7. Juan Lopez, 42 of Passaic, N.J. (14) Lopez is a day laborer. Charges are 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  8. Rafael Martinez-Lezama, 37 of New Brunswick, N.J. (13) Martinez-Lezama is a cook at a bagel shop. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  9. Jose Martinez-Mejia, 32 of West New York, N.J. (14) Martinez-Mejia is a day laborer. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault, 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and 3rd degree Attempt to Promote Obscene Material to a Child.

  10. Duraikandan Murugan, 40 of Jasper, Indiana (14) Murugan is unemployed. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault, and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  11. Nimeshbha Patel, 48 of Piscataway, N.J. (14) Patel is a retail worker. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  12. Niraj Patel, 46 of Somerset, N.J. (14) Patel is a printer. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  13. Michael Schumacher, 55 of Somerset, N.J. (12) Schumacher is a self-employed home theater installer. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  14. Zulfiqer Sekender, 47 of Piscataway, N.J. (14) Sekender is a software engineer. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  15. Naveen Thangaraj, 36 of Edison, N.J. (14) Thangaraj is a system engineer. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault.

  16. Alexander Ulikowski, 20 of Branchburg, N.J. (14) Ulikowski is an assistant manager for a hockey store. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  17. Conrado Vasquez-Vasquez, 38 of New Brunswick, N.J. (14) Vasquez-Vasquez works at a dry cleaners. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

  18. Randal Wise, 42 of Crawford, Indiana (14) Wise is an engineer for a sports television network. Charges are 2nd degree Luring, 2nd degree Attempted Sexual Assault, 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child and 3rd degree Attempt to Promote Obscene Material to a Child.

  19. Adam Zeigler, 34 of Carlisle, Pennsylvania (14) Zeigler works for an amusement park. Charges are 2nd degree Luring and 3rd degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office led the operation but it would not have been successful without the collaboration of the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The N.J. ICAC Task Force is led by the New Jersey State Police and includes the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), all 21 County Prosecutors’ Offices, and many other state and local law enforcement agencies.  The additional agencies that participated in “Operation Open Door” are listed below:

Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office

New Jersey State Police

New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Homeland Security Investigations

United States Secret Service

NJ State Corrections

NJ State Parole 

Essex County Prosecutor’s Office

Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office

Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office

Morris County Prosecutor’s Office

Union County Prosecutor’s Office

Camden County Prosecutor’s Office

Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office

Franklin Township Police Department

Branchburg Police Department

Verona Police Department

Bayonne Police Department

Wall Police Department

Red Bank Police Department

East Brunswick Police Department

Manalapan Police Department

Fairfield Police Department

“By arresting 59 alleged child predators in just over a year through three undercover operations across New Jersey, including Operation Open Door, we have sent a powerful message to predators that the boy or girl they target on social media may turn out to be the officer who puts them in handcuffs,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Through these collaborative efforts, we also are delivering a message to parents that we must all do our part to protect children by talking to them and warning them that predators use popular chat apps and gaming platforms to lure children into danger.  We have no higher priority than protecting our children.”

 “Our children and their online safety is the utmost concern to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. Social media apps allow predators into our homes and as law enforcement, we must do what we can to make it a safer environment,” said Prosecutor Robertson. “We hope that this collaborative operation will be eye-opening for parents. Although, 19 online child predators have been arrested, parents must learn the apps that their children are using and the inherent dangers within.”

"The chilling reality that today's parents must face is that online child predators could be preying on their children without their knowledge, even as they sit together at home, seemingly safe," said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan of the New Jersey State Police.  "Investigations like “Operation Open Door”, serve as a warning not just for parents, but as a warning that those seeking out underage victims to abuse are themselves being sought out by undercover detectives, who are supported by a collaborative team of law enforcement dedicated to bringing child predators to justice."

“Operation Open Door is another great example of law enforcement agencies at all levels collaborating on a priority mission – in this case, protecting children by arresting predators who seek to use social media to lure and sexually exploit them,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice.  “I commend our partners on the ICAC Task Force, particularly the State Police and Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, who coordinated this operation with the Division of Criminal Justice. In addition to these major operations, we work on a daily basis with our law enforcement partners to monitor social media and apprehend offenders who stalk children or share child pornography online.”

Attorney General Grewal and Prosecutor Robertson made the announcement at the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office with DCJ Director Veronica Allende, Lieutenant Colonel Fritz Frage of the New Jersey State Police, FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie and leaders and representatives of the other participating agencies.

           Note: We are required by the Rules of Court to include herein a statement explaining that the charges are merely an accusation and that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Operation Open Door

 Parental Warning Social MediaOpOpenDoor_Agencies

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