Teen Apologizes For Panic Caused By “Human Trafficking” Post

Photo by Jennifer Peacock

TOMS RIVER — A Toms River teen took to Twitter to formally apologize for initiating a widespread panic with her tweet that stated the Crossroads Center parking lot on Route 37 in Toms River was a hot-spot for human trafficking.

The original tweet, posted by Sarah Gascho, stated: “the parking lot on route 37 where ShopRite, staples, Panera, etc. are located is apparently becoming a spot for human traffickers to kidnap victims!!!!!”

The tweet has since been deleted; however, it garnered hundreds of shares and comments on social media prior to being removed.

Toms River Police announced on September 10 that they were receiving numerous inquiries about the alleged human trafficking at this location.

Courtesy Twitter

“We have not received any official reports alerting us to any criminal activity of this nature,” stated Toms River Police. “Please be aware that posting unsubstantiated rumors can rise to causing false public alarm which is a chargeable offense. If you have been witness to something or feel in danger, call the police, do not post about it.”

Gascho apologized for the mistaken post via Twitter: “I’m sorry for any panic caused by my former tweet about the ShopRite parking lot! I’ve heard rumors and apparently people have been arrested for luring in TR and I thought maybe people would like to know. Never meant to cause any alarm, but please continue to be aware and safe,” stated Gascho’s post.

Photo courtesy Ocean County Scanner News

A follow-up to that post read: “it was never my intention to say that these rumors were in fact true, I only tried to bring awareness to a growing problem that could happen ANYWHERE, including close to home. I apologize for any panic or harm caused by the tweet.”

It has been reported that Gascho was possibly referencing the recent arrest of Howell Sergeant Richard C. Conte, in regards to “luring.” Conte was arrested on Sept. 6 in Toms River and charged with luring after it was discovered he was trying to meet and engage in sexual activity with a 15-year old girl, who was really an undercover officer in sting operation.

Conte was ordered released today after a detention hearing.