TRENTON – A former Howell Police Officer was indicted today on charges of luring and attempted sexual contact after he tried to convince who he though was a 15-year old girl to meet for sex back in 2018, announced Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
The “15-year old girl” was actually an undercover detective working “Operation Open House,” a multi-agency operation in 2018 led by the Attorney General’s Office. Operation Open House resulted in the arrest of 24 men who allegedly were using social media to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity.
On October 9, 2019, 48-year old Richard Conte of Farmingdale was indicted by a state grand jury on the following charges: Official Misconduct (2nd degree); Luring, Enticing Child (2nd degree); Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child (3rd degree); Attempted Sexual Contact with Victim Aged 13 to 15 (4th degree).
On Sept. 6, 2018, Conte was arrested after undercover detectives found he was trying to lure an underage girl over social media. An undercover detective from the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force posed as the online “girl.”
Conte engaged with the “girl” through a social media site and continued to chat with her online and email her after she repeatedly confirmed that she was only 15. Conte also allegedly used his work phone to engage in chats with the “girl.” In the online chats, Conte claimed he was 19 years old.
Eventually, Conte allegedly arranged to meet her for sexual activity at a location in Toms River. When he arrived at the meeting spot on Sept. 6, 2018, Conte had condoms in his pocket. He was then confronted by law enforcement officers conducting Operation Open House and arrested.
Deputy Attorney General Supriya Prasad presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The indictment was handed up in Superior Court in Mercer County. The case was assigned to Ocean County, where Conte will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
Anyone with information about the distribution of child pornography 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 – is urged to contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.