13 charged with soliciting minors online after undercover sting

Crime

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than a dozen men were arrested late last week on charges including indecent solicitation of a child as a result of a months-long investigation dubbed “Operation Guardian.”

Rhode Island State Police announced Thursday that the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force led the operation, which they said targeted individuals who allegedly solicit minors for sexual purposes through social media and online classified ads.

According to state police, undercover detectives used 16 different apps to communicate with the suspects, who believed they were talking to 13- to 15-year-olds of all genders. Each of the suspects arranged to meet the juveniles for various sexual acts at predetermined locations, police said.

“Our citizens can sleep better at night knowing this unit is relentless in the pursuit of these child predators,” Col. James Manni said of the ICAC Task Force.

“We’d like to send a strong message to these child predators: We will use all available resources and will go to any length to find you, to attest you, and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.

Between Friday, Jan. 24, and Saturday, Jan. 25, detectives made 13 arrests and police said more arrests may be forthcoming.

The following suspects are each charged with one count of indecent solicitation of a child:

  • Jose Carrion, 41, of Attleboro (also charged with possession of cocaine)
  • Kevin Cooney, 27, of Bellingham (also charged with electronically disseminating indecent material to a minor)
  • Tomy Fitton, 39, of Pawtucket (also charged with 5 counts of electronically disseminating indecent material to a minor)
  • Anthony Gomes, 31, of Brockton (also charged with electronically disseminating indecent material to a minor)
  • Michael Johnson, 50, of Templeton (also charged with electronically disseminating indecent material to a minor)
  • James Jolly, 41, of Middleborough
  • Paul Kimata, 41, of Brockton
  • David King, 37, of Westerly (also charged with electronically disseminating indecent material to a minor)
  • Yuhua Kong, 29, of Providence
  • Stephen Lomastro, 57, of Warwick
  • Muhammad Malik, 44, of East Greenwich
  • Emmett Manna, 37, of Providence
  • Manna Mahuri, 41, of North Kingstown
Top Row (L-R) Jose Carrion, Kevin Cooney, Tomy Fitton; 2nd Row (L-R) Anthony Gomes, Michael Johnson, James Jolly, Paul Kimata; 3rd Row (L-R) David King, Yuhua Kong, Stephen Lomastro, Muhammad Malik; Bottom Row (L-R) Emmett Manna, Manna Mahuri (Photos: RI State Police)

State police said about half of the suspects have criminal records and noted that Fitton was a sex offender in Massachusetts but his registration expired in July.

Police also said the investigation shows the potential dangers of social media and urged parents to be vigilant by communicating with their children and monitoring their online activity.

“The suspects come from all walks of life,” police wrote in a news release. “There is no stereotypical child predator.”

Carrion, Cooney, Gomes, Johnson, Jolly, Kimata, King, Kong, Lomastro, Malik, Manna, and Mahuri were arraigned Wednesday, according to police. Carrion was issued $5,000 surety bail while the other 11 received $5,000 personal recognizance, and all 12 were ordered to have limited use of the internet and no unsupervised contact with minors.

Police said Fitton was arraigned Monday and issued $50,000 surety bail with the same special conditions.

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