A suspended Howell Township Police Officer has been indicted by a grand jury on charges that he attempted to lure a 15-year old girl, he met online, for sex, announced New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

The "girl" Richard Conte tried to meet was in fact an undercover detective participating in “Operation Open House,” a multi-agency operation in 2018 led by the Attorney General’s Office that resulted in the arrest of 24 men who allegedly were using social media to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity.

Richard C. Conte, 48, of Farmingdale, was indicted by a state grand jury for Official Misconduct (2nd degree), Luring, Enticing Child (2nd degree), Attempted Endangering the Welfare of a Child (3rd degree) and Attempted Sexual Contact with Victim Aged 13 to 15 (4th degree).

Conte was arrested on September 6, 2018, four days after he had encountered a person he believed to be a 15-year-old girl through an online social media site.

The person he encountered was really an undercover detective with the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

Although the “girl” repeatedly indicated that she was 15 years old, investigators said that Conte continued to chat with her online and email her.

Conte allegedly used his work phone to engage in chats with the “girl" and arranged to meet her for sexual activity at a location in Toms River.

He claimed in the chats that he was 19 years old.

Conte had condoms in his pocket when he arrived at the meet location on the night of September 6, 2018 and was arrested by law enforcement officers conducting Operation Open House.

During the past year, the Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police, and their law enforcement partners arrested 40 alleged child predators in two major undercover operations, “Operation Open House” in Ocean County and “Operation Home Alone” in Bergen County.

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 is an accusation and Conte is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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.

In addition to investigating cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, members of the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit, the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer 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 pornography.

Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende urge 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 – to please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.

Defense Attorney: Richard Incremona, Esq., Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., Freehold, N.J.

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