#childpredator | Lehigh Valley man charged in online child predator sting

A Northampton County resident is one of a dozen men charged in an online child predator sting in New Jersey, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office said Tuesday.

Quentin Anthony Blount, 28, of Easton, is among three of those arrested facing federal charges as part of the investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

The 12 from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania were arrested under “Operation Spotlight,” and are accused of arranging sexual meet-ups with people they thought were children living in Somerset County, Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson says in a report from nj.com.

The men, instead, were talking to police officers posing as children on various social media apps. The officers identified themselves or a family member as underage, but the accused still made plans to meet up for sex, Robertson said.

“Our children and their online safety is the utmost concern to us at the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office,” Robertson said in a statement. “Social media apps allow predators into our homes and as law enforcement, we must do what we can to make it a safer environment. We hope that this operation will continue to be eye-opening for parents. Although 12 online child predators have been arrested, parents must learn the apps that their children are using and the inherent dangers within.”

Blount on Oct. 15 allegedly used an internet-based application to communicate with whom he believed to be a mother offering her 14-year-old daughter for sex in exchange for money. Unbeknownst to Blount, he was communicating with an undercover law enforcement officer, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

Blount allegedly traveled from Easton to a location in Somerset County to meet with the mother and the minor. Upon arriving, he provided a sum of cash to the undercover officer, who Blount believed was the child’s mother, and was arrested by law enforcement, the federal prosecutor said.

Blount is charged with interstate travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and attempted sex trafficking of a minor. If convicted on the first charge, he would face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The second charge, upon conviction, carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

He made his initial appearance Friday by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III and was detained. Blount is represented in the case by the federal public defender’s office in Newark.

Carpenito credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr.; detectives with the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Robertson and Chief John W. Fodor; and officers with the Somerville, Bound Brook and Hillsborough police departments with the investigation leading to these charges.

“Sexual crimes against children are among the most difficult cases we handle,” Carpenito said in a statement. “I am proud my office is working hand in hand with our partners at the FBI and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office to make sure these predators are identified and prosecuted with all the tools at our disposal.”

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Kurt Bresswein may be reached at kbresswein@lehighvalleylive.com.

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