|TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that Ethan Z. Chandler – who ran a video production company focused on youth sports out of his Essex County home – was indicted today on charges that he sexually assaulted a boy, 14, on multiple occasions after meeting the teen on a social media site.
The alleged assaults on the 14-year-old came to light as the result of an undercover investigation by the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigation Unit, in which Chandler allegedly communicated via a mobile chat app with an individual he believed was a 13-year-old boy, attempting to lure the boy for a sexual encounter. The “boy” in reality was an undercover detective, and Chandler was arrested in December.
The Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau today obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Chandler, 43, of Belleville, N.J., with the following crimes:
- Luring a Child (2nd degree),
- Sexual Assault of a Minor (2nd degree), and
- Criminal Sexual Contact (4th degree).
The charges of sexual assault and criminal sexual contact relate to the alleged assaults by Chandler on the 14-year-old boy. The luring charge relates to Chandler’s alleged conduct involving the undercover trooper. The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison. Chandler operated a video production company which involved filming sports events at schools across the region and brought him into close contact with children. He posted weekly video highlight packages of high school football on YouTube.
“The allegations against Chandler reveal a serial sexual predator who satisfied his deviant desires by targeting young boys through social media and online ads,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Were it not for the vigilance of the State Police and their swift pursuit of every lead with our attorneys, this alleged pedophile would undoubtedly have found more victims. We have no higher priority than protecting children from sexual predators, whether they lurk at the ball field, on social media, or in this case, both.”
“People often refer to the internet and social media as a virtual environment, but the crimes that are committed and initiated there are all too real,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “As long as predators like Chandler continue to use social media sites to lure and victimize children, we will vigilantly patrol that virtual landscape to detect them and bring them to justice.”
“Predators like Chandler lurk in the shadows of the internet and target innocent children to fulfill their demented desires,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I commend the great work of the State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit and partners in the Division of Criminal Justice that led to this indictment, but we must remain vigilant in seeking out these deviants and remind parents to do their part by monitoring their children’s online activity.”
The undercover investigation by the State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit (DTIU) began when detectives spotted an ad allegedly placed by Chandler on Craigslist soliciting oral sex with a young man. An undercover detective with the DTIU responded to the ad, indicating to Chandler that he was a 13-year-old boy. Chandler allegedly asked the “13-year-old” to communicate with him using the mobile chat app Kik.
Chandler allegedly engaged in sexually explicit chats with the “teen” on Kik in which he said he knew the teen was 13, but did not care. He allegedly discussed meeting the teen so that he could perform oral sex on him. Chandler allegedly asked the purported teen to meet him in Woodbridge, where he believed the teen lived, but Chandler postponed the meeting at the last minute. During the online chats with the undercover detective, Chandler also allegedly indicated that he had been sexually involved with a 14-year-old male.
Chandler was initially arrested on Dec. 1, when the State Police executed a search warrant at his apartment and seized computers, his cell phone and other potential evidence. Evidence seized during the search assisted detectives in identifying and locating the alleged 14-year-old victim, whom Chandler allegedly met online on a social media site. Chandler allegedly brought the young teen to his apartment and had sex with him on at least three occasions. The alleged sexual activity included both oral and anal sex. He allegedly communicated with the youth using various social media outlets.
Chandler was re-arrested on Dec. 7 as a result of the ongoing investigation by the State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. He was initially lodged in the Essex County Jail, but posted $200,000 bail and was released, subject to a sex offense restraining order.
Deputy Attorney General Layli Khelafa presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Julia Glass and Bureau Chief Michael Monahan. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the members of the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit (DTIU) for their outstanding work on the investigation. Porrino also thanked the Belleville Police Department, New Jersey State Police Canine Unit and New Jersey State Police Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists (TEAMS) North Unit for their assistance during the execution of the search warrant in December.
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. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Robert C. Billmeier in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Essex County, where Chandler will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig urged anyone with information about Chandler – or about the online distribution of child pornography, or suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children online or possible sexual abuse of children – to contact 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 will exercise maximum care to protect the privacy of victims in this case and every case of this type. Victims can rest assured that every precaution will be taken to protect them and their identity if they come forward with information.
Michael C. Woyce, Esq., Murphy & Woyce, Ringwood, N.J.
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