TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that an Essex County man has been charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old male on multiple occasions after meeting the teen online on a social media site. The alleged sexual assaults on the 14-year-old came to light as the result of an undercover investigation by the New Jersey State Police, in which the man allegedly communicated via a mobile chat app with an individual he believed was a 13-year-old boy, attempting to lure the boy for a sexual encounter. The “boy” in reality was an undercover detective.
Ethan Z. Chandler, 42, of Belleville, N.J., was initially arrested on Dec. 1 at his apartment by members of the New Jersey State Police, who executed a search warrant and seized computers, his cell phone and other potential evidence. He was charged at that time with second-degree luring a child and lodged in the Essex County Jail. New charges were filed this week related to the 14-year-old, and Chandler was re-arrested on Wednesday (Dec. 7) as a result of the ongoing investigation by the State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit (DTIU) and Division of Criminal Justice Cyber Crimes Unit. Chandler was lodged in the Essex County Jail with bail set at $200,000. Chandler operates a video production company which involves filming sports events at schools across the region and which brings him into close contact with children. He posts weekly video highlight packages of high school football on YouTube.
The initial charge was based on the undercover investigation, which began when detectives spotted an ad allegedly placed by Chandler on Craigslist soliciting oral sex with a young man. An undercover detective with the State Police DTIU responded to the ad, indicating to Chandler that he was a 13-year-old male. Chandler allegedly asked the “13-year-old” to communicate with him using the mobile chat app Kik. Chandler allegedly engaged in sexually explicit chats with the “teen” on Kik in which he said he knew the teen was 13, but did not care. Chandler allegedly discussed meeting the teen so that he could perform oral sex on him. Chandler allegedly asked the teen to meet him on Nov. 23 in Woodbridge, where he believed the teen lived, but Chandler postponed the meeting at the last minute.
Through the arrest and search on Dec. 1, evidence was obtained that Chandler allegedly engaged in sex with a 14-year-old male from Essex County whom he met online on a social media site. State Police DTIU detectives quickly pursued those leads and were successful in identifying the alleged victim. Chandler, who had posted bail after the initial arrest, was re-arrested on Wednesday on charges of second-degree sexual assault and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact in connection with the 14-year-old. Chandler allegedly had sex with the young teen on at least three occasions in Chandler’s apartment in Belleville, including as recently as a few weeks ago. The alleged sexual activity included both oral and anal sex. He allegedly continued to communicate with the youth using various social media outlets.
“The allegations against Chandler reveal a dangerous sexual predator who used social media to satiate his desire for young victims,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By quickly pursuing this alleged pedophile, the New Jersey State Police uncovered Chandler’s alleged sexual assaults on one young teen and prevented him from carrying out his plan to find additional children to assault. We’ll continue to protect children by patrolling the Internet and diligently pursuing all leads to arrest this type of tech-savvy predator.”
“We’re working on a number of important new initiatives, including programs to educate children and parents about the dangers posed by sexual predators on social media, as well as enhanced efforts to catch such offenders and those involved in the distribution of child pornography,” Attorney General Porrino added. “There simply is no higher priority than protecting our children from the harm inflicted by these depraved pedophiles.”
“Social media and mobile apps unfortunately have become favorite tools for sexual predators seeking to lure and victimize children,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re working hard to lock up pedophiles and keep our children safe. We urge anyone with additional information related to Chandler and the type of conduct we allege to contact us immediately.”
“Parents need to recognize that a sexual predator could be preying on their children even as they sit next to each other on the sofa, seemingly safe at home,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We’ll do our part by continuing to arrest these deviants, and parents need to do their part by monitoring their children’s online activity on any devices that they have access to. I commend the great investigative work of the State Police DTIU and our partners in the Division of Criminal Justice which led to the quick arrest of this predator.”
The State Police and Division of Criminal Justice are continuing their investigation. They have obtained information that Chandler allegedly sent nude photos of himself to at least three juveniles and may have been having sexual relations with a second 14-year-old male.
Chandler was arrested by the Livingston Police Department on Feb. 22, 2014, at the Livingston Mall after he was discovered in a bathroom kissing a young man who appeared to be a minor. The young man fled, but Chandler admitted to police that he believed the youth was a minor. Chandler pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct related to that arrest.
In connection with this case and new initiatives by the Attorney General’s Office to protect children from sexual predators, Attorney General Porrino will host a community educational event next week featuring a program on Internet safety for parents and students. The event is free and open to the public. It will begin at 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15, at the Hendricks Field Golf Course, 220 Franklin Avenue, Belleville.
Attorney General Porrino commended all of the members of the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit (DTIU) for their outstanding work on the investigation. He also commended the attorneys in the Division of Criminal Justice who worked on the investigation. Deputy Attorney General Layli Khelafa is assigned to prosecute the case for the Cyber Crimes Unit within the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Julia Glass and Bureau Chief Michael Monahan. The Belleville Police Department, New Jersey State Police Canine Unit and New Jersey State Police Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists (TEAMS) North Unit assisted with the execution of the search warrant on Dec. 1.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. The charges are merely accusations and Chandler is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig urged anyone with information about Chandler – or about the online distribution of child pornography, or suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children online or possible sexual abuse of children – to contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007 to report the information confidentially. The Attorney General’s Office and the New Jersey State Police will exercise maximum care to protect the privacy of victims in this case and every case of this type. Victims can rest assured that every precaution will be taken to protect them and their identity if they come forward with information.
Defense Attorney: Prosper Bellizia, Esq., of Bloomfield and Asbury Park, N.J.
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