BELLEVILLE, NJ — A 42-year-old Belleville man was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old male, two years after being arrested at the Livingston Mall for admitting to kissing a juvenile male in the men’s restroom.
Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced last week that Ethan Chandler assaulted the teen on multiple occasions after meeting him through a social media site. According to a release about his arrest, Chandler’s assaults were discovered through an undercover investigation conducted by the New Jersey State Police.
“Social media and mobile apps unfortunately have become favorite tools for sexual predators seeking to lure and victimize children,” said Elie Honig, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re working hard to lock up pedophiles and keep our children safe.
When an undercover detective pretended to be a 13-year-old boy on a mobile chat application in order to investigate Chandler’s activity after spotting a Craigslist ad soliciting oral sex with a young man, Chandler attempted to communicate with this “boy” and lure him for a sexual encounter, police said.
The detective responded to the ad, indicating that he was a 13-year-old male, at which point Chandler asked him to communicate using the mobile chat app Kik, according to police.
According to the investigation, Chandler engaged in sexually explicit chats with the “teen” on Kik, stating that he “did not care” that the boy was 13. He then discussed meeting the teen on Nov. 23 in Woodbridge, where he believed the teen to live, so that he could perform oral sex on him. Chandler allegedly postponed the meeting at the last minute.
New Jersey State Police initially arrested Chandler on Dec. 1 at his apartment, where police executed a search warrant and seized computers, Chandler’s cell phone and other potential evidence. Chandler was subsequently charged with second-degree luring a child and lodged in the Essex County Jail.
New charges were filed last week related to the 14-year-old and Chandler was re-arrested on Wednesday as a result of the ongoing investigation by the State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit (DTIU) and Division of Criminal Justice Cyber Crimes Unit. He was once again lodged in the Essex County Jail with bail set at $200,000.
According to police, Chandler operates a video-production company that involves filming sports events at schools across the region, bringing him into close contact with children. He posts weekly video highlight packages of high school football on YouTube.
Evidence was obtained on Dec. 1 that Chandler had previously 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 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. Investigation revealed that Chandler likely had sex with the 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, according to police. 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 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.”
Porrino added that the department is working on a number of 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.
“There simply is no higher priority than protecting our children from the harm inflicted by these depraved pedophiles,” he said.
“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.
It was also noted that 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.
Porrino urges anyone with additional information related to Chandler and this type of conduct to contact the Attorney General’s Office immediately or 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 stated that they will exercise maximum care to protect the privacy of victims in this case and every case of this type. It was also added that victims can rest assured that every precaution will be taken to protect them and their identity if they come forward with information.
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.
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. Chandler is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In connection with this case and new initiatives to protect children from sexual predators, Porrino is hosting a community educational event on Thursday featuring a program on Internet safety for parents and students. The event is free and open to the public at 7 p.m. at the Hendricks Field Golf Course, 220 Franklin Avenue in Belleville.
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