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Four Township Men Among 19 Snagged In ‘Operation Open Door’ Child Sex Sting

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal speaks during the Oct. 31 “Operation Open Door” press conference at the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office in Somerville.

Four township men were among 19 alleged child predators caught in a multi-agency law enforcement sting, authorities said Oct. 31.

The men were caught in “Operation Open Door,” a sting led by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, in cooperation with a number of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Franklin Township Police.

According to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, the Franklin residents arrested were:

  • Jihaad Brown, 23, of Franklin Park. Brown is retail salesman. He was charged with 2nd Degree Luring and 3rd Degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
  • Brian Davis, 28, of Somerset. Davis is a security guard. He was charged with 2nd Degree Attempted Promotion of Prostitution of a Child, 2nd Degree Luring, and 3rd Degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
  • Niraj Patel, 46, of Somerset. Patel is a printer. He is charged with 2nd Degree Luring, 2nd Degree Attempted Sexual Assault and 3rd Degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
  • Michael Schumacher, 55 of Somerset. Schumacher is a self-employed home theater installer. He is charged with 2nd Degree Luring and 3rd Degree Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

The charges carry maximum sentences of between 3 to 5 and 5 to 10 years, Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson said.

The arrests were made between October 23 and October 28, and were the culmination of an approximately six-week investigation, authorities said.

The arrests were announced in an October 31 press conference headlined by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Clockwise from left: Patel, Schumacher, Davis and Brown.

Grewal said the activity leading to the arrests took place online, in a variety of social media chat forums.

Undercover officers, members of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, posed as children aged 12-14 years, and chatted with the defendants, Grewal said.

Robertson said the undercover officers eventually arranged to meet the defendants at two locations in Somerset County. He declined to say in which towns the meetings were located.

“They arrived at these locations and they were thereafter placed under arrest,” he said.

“Here in Somerset County, if you prey on children, we will use every last bit of our resources to bring you to justice and prosecute you to the fullest extent allowed by law,” Robertson said.

The sting involved 24 law enforcement agencies. Aside from the prosecutor’s office and FTPD, those agencies included the FBI, the US Secret Service, seven county prosecutor’s offices and eight municipal police departments, according to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.

“This was truly a collaborative, multi-agency effort to protect our young people,” Grewal said. “Using this same type of approach, in just over a year’s time, we’ve charged 59 alleged child predators in this state, in three major sting operations all across New Jersey.”

“One need only consider what would happen if these men encountered a real child on social media instead of an undercover officer,” he said. “By arresting them, we’ve not only stopped them in their tracks, but we’ve stopped others by sending a powerful message that no matter who you are, no matter where you’re hiding or what apps you’re using, try to target young people for sex, we will find you, and when we do, we will arrest you.”

“There is no higher priority for us than the well-being and the safety of young people,” Grewal said.

Grewal said the arrests also should send a message to parents.

“You need to understand that the profiles we used during this sting operation could easily have been your young children,” he said. “You need to understand that in today’s cyber age, we’re dealing with a new breed of criminal. Child predators once used to stalk young people on playgrounds and in shopping malls, now they lurk on social media using chat apps and gaming platforms.”

“They’re using the anonymity of the Internet to assume whatever disguise serves their purpose, and they’re prepared to strike at a moment’s notice to sexually exploit a child,” he said.

Grewal ticked off five things parents could do to help safeguard their children:

  • Teach your children that the people they encounter online or on their computers or on their phones may not be the people who they say they are.
  • Tell your children they should be wary of interacting with strangers online in the same way we warn them to be careful of strangers in the public square.
  • Familiarize yourself with the apps. These are today’s playgrounds. We know that predators are using them actively to target our young people.
  • Check the security settings on these apps and on their phones.
  • Remind your children not to share their personal information online.

“Together through collaborative law enforcement operation, by parents and family members doing their part, and by educating our young people about online dangers, we can, and we will, ensure the safety of our children in every setting,” Grewal said.

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