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TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the indictment of a man who is charged with traveling from Oklahoma to New Jersey to meet two men who had offered him access to two underage girls for sex. In reality the defendant had communicated with undercover members of the New Jersey State Police and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.
The Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment on Friday, May 21, charging Aaron D. Craiger, 34, of Oklahoma City, Okla., with the following crimes:
- Conspiracy to Commit Human Trafficking (1st Degree)
- Luring/Enticing a Child (2nd Degree)
- Attempted Aggravated Sexual Assault (Two Counts, 2nd Degree)
- Attempted Impairing/Debauching the Morals of a Child (Two Counts, 3rd Degree)
- Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material (2nd Degree)
- Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material (3rd Degree)
Craiger was arrested on March 18, 2020 by detectives of the New Jersey State Police and special agents of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at a motel in Atlantic City where he stayed overnight after traveling by bus from Oklahoma. He allegedly planned to meet the two men that day so he could sexually assault the underage victims. Craiger allegedly believed that one of the men would bring his 12-year-old daughter for sex, and the second man would bring his girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter. Craiger had condoms with him, as well as a small amount of marijuana, which he allegedly said he wanted to smoke with the girls. In text exchanges with the undercover detectives, Craiger allegedly detailed the sexual acts he wanted to perform with the girls. He allegedly sent them child sexual abuse material, and child sexual abuse material was found on his phone when he was arrested.
“Even a global pandemic did not deter Craiger from traveling halfway across the United States for the alleged purpose of sexually exploiting underage victims,” said Attorney General Grewal. “When reports of potential online threats to children surged early in the pandemic, we redoubled our efforts to apprehend child predators. We also sounded the alarm for parents to be vigilant. I urge parents to continue to talk to their children about the dangers of predators on social media, particularly with children spending more time at home on their electronic devices.”
“The State Police, Division of Criminal Justice, Homeland Security Investigations, and our other partners on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force are working tirelessly to protect children through these proactive investigations.” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our message to sexual predators is that if you target our children, we will target you and put you behind bars.”
“Craiger allegedly went to great lengths to sexually assault two young girls, but law enforcement will go to greater lengths to apprehend dangerous child predators and ensure that they are held accountable for their crimes,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We remain committed to working with our partners in law enforcement, educational institutions, and our communities to protect New Jersey’s children.”
“This is a great example of how traditional police work and law enforcement partnerships, along with our cyber experts, work in tandem to capture someone devoted to ruining young lives,” said Jason J. Molina, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Newark. “As a result of our mutual efforts, real lives have been spared from a relentless predator.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa M. Rastelli presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lilianne Daniel, Bureau Chief Jillian Carpenter, and DCJ Deputy Director Robert Czepiel. Attorney General Grewal commended the detectives of the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, special agents of HSI Atlantic City, and attorneys of the DCJ Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau who worked on the investigation.
First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In addition to investigating cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, members of the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, and the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force routinely conduct undercover chat investigations on social media platforms leading to arrests of hands-on offenders and defendants attempting to lure children. They also conduct proactive investigations to apprehend offenders by monitoring peer-to-peer file-sharing networks and identifying the IP addresses of individuals sharing child sexual abuse material.
Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende urged anyone with information about the distribution of child sexual abuse material on the internet—or about suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children—to please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.
Defense Attorney: Public Defender’s Office, Atlantic County.