New Jersey officer turns instant e-mail
message into child endangerment sting
[Westwood, NJ]

Nicole Gaudiano, Staff Writer December 14, 2000, Thursday Copyright 2000 Bergen Record Corp. The Record (Bergen County, NJ) December 14, 2000, Thursday; All Editions

(WESTWOOD, N.J.) -- Westwood Police Lt. Lawrence Schwarz was already occupied with an investigation when an instant message popped up on his computer screen.

Recognizing the sender as a potential suspect, Schwarz posed as a 15-year-old boy.

Just a few hours later, the suspect was in handcuffs.

"By the sixth line of my conversation, I told him 'I'm 15, " Schwarz said."I asked him if I was too young, but nope, he was into it. Probably by the 40th or 50th line, he's asking what I want to do, what kind of sex acts."

Leonard Christener, 35, of Wayne was subsequently charged with attempted sexual assault, attempted endangering the welfare of a child, and possession of cocaine.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Patricia Baglivi said she was surprised at how quickly the Internet conversation turned to a proposed meeting for the purpose of sex.

"I've never seen them ask for a meet the same day," she said.

"Normally, our cases develop over time before a suspect asks for a meet.

The chat was in the morning, and the arrest was at 1:30 in the afternoon."

Schwarz and investigators from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office were waiting when Christener pulled up Tuesday at an undisclosed public parking lot in Westwood, Baglivi said.

Investigators searched Christener's car and found a small amount of cocaine, she said. He was arrested without incident, she said.

Christener, a retail manager with Rite Aid Corp., was released from the Bergen County Jail on $ 50,000 bond.

This was the second time in a week that a suspect who allegedly contacted officers on the Internet was arrested.

On Sunday, police ended a monthlong investigation with the arrest of a Belmar man who they said found the officers in a chat room as they were teaching a course on computer crime at the Bergen County Police Academy.

The officers posed as a 13-year-old girl when the suspect allegedly contacted them and later sent them child pornography over the Internet.

They arrested him in a remote area of Upper Saddle River as he arrived for a meeting, authorities said.

Staff Writer Nicole Gaudiano's e-mail address is gaudianon(at)NorthJersey.com


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