SOMERSET COUNTY, New Jersey (WABC) -- Authorities in New Jersey on Monday announced the arrests of 12 men they say were nabbed in a child predator sting dubbed "Operation Spotlight."
Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson described the operation as 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 in internet undercover operations.
"Our children and their online safety is the utmost concern to us at the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office," Robertson said. "Social media apps allow predators into our homes and as law enforcement, we must do what we can to make it a safer environment. We hope that this operation will continue to be eye-opening for parents. Although, 12 online child predators have been arrested, parents must learn the apps that their children are using and the inherent dangers within."
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The suspects initiated contact based on profiles posted by the undercover law enforcement officers on various social media platforms.
Officials said that once chatting began, the undercover officers clearly identified themselves as underage girls or boys.
Despite that information, the defendants allegedly engaged in conversations about sex and made arrangements to meet them for sex.
They were arrested when they arrived at one of three pre-arranged locations in Somerset County, where they expected to find their victims.
The arrests were made over a four-day period from October 15 through October 18. Officials say three defendants traveled to New Jersey from Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut.
Charges range from first-degree promoting prostitution of a child under the age of 18 to second-degree attempted luring, second-degree attempted sexual assault of a minor, and third-degree attempted endangering the welfare by debauching the morals of a child.
Electronic devices were seized, and examinations of those devices are ongoing.
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Those arrested were identified as:
--Kyle Saludes, 34, Jersey City, an HVAC technician
--Quentin Anthony Blount, 28, Bethlehem, PA, a distribution warehouse employee
--Digant Patel, 46, Warren, vice president of a financial institution
--Tyler Mineo, 27, Bound Brook, a supermarket employee
--Christopher Matamoros-Rojas, 26, Hillsborough, currently unemployed
--Alexander Castillo-Velasquez, 34, Bound Brook, a self-employed handyman
--Jesus Modesto-Sanchez, 29, New York, NY, an employee at a professional financial firm
--Benjamin Burke, 27, Darien, CT, a software engineer
--Cristian Medina, 34, Raritan, a restoration technician
--Ryan Lee, 35, Trenton, a warehouse employee
--Daviti Robakidze, 27, Bound Brook, a retail worker
--Kevin Curcio, 27, North Brunswick, a warehouse employee
The joint operation which was hosted by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office with direct collaboration of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Victims Squad, Newark Field Office, Albany New York Field Office and Philadelphia Field Office along with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
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'Operation Spotlight': 12 arrested in New Jersey child predator sting