June 12, 2007
Attorney General Corbett announces arrest of New Jersey police officer in "Internet sex sting;" 77th arrest by Child Predator Unit
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that agents from the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit have arrested a New Jersey police officer accused of sexually propositioning what he believed was a 13-year old girl, as well as sending graphic nude webcam videos to the girl.
Corbett identified the defendant as Edward Berzins, 37, of Blackwood, New Jersey. Berzins is an officer with the Gloucester Township, NJ, Police Department.
Corbett explained that the "girl" Berzins was communicating with was actually an undercover agent from the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit. The Unit was created in January 2005 to conduct proactive undercover investigations in order to identify and apprehend Internet predators before they can harm children. This is the 77th arrest since the creation of the Child Predator Unit.
According to the criminal complaint, Berzins approached the undercover agent in an Internet chat room on April 19, 2007. During that initial chat, Berzins allegedly sent the girl a live webcam transmission of his face, and also discussed dropping his boxer shorts and exposing himself on the webcam.
Corbett said that during two online chats that followed, on April 23rd and 24th, Berzins allegedly sent the girl a total of three nude webcam videos, including one transmission of Berzins masturbating in front of the webcam.
Berzins was arrested at his home at approximately 11 a.m. on June 11, 2007, by agents from the Child Predator Unit, assisted by Gloucester Township police. Corbett thanked the Gloucester Township Police Department and the Camden County Prosecutor's Office for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.
Berzins is charged with one count each of unlawful contact with a minor, criminal attempted obscene and sexual performances and criminal use of a computer, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Berzins waived extradition and was transported to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for preliminary arraignment in Dauphin County Night Court. He was lodged in the Dauphin County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m. on June 21, before Harrisburg Magisterial District Judge Joseph Solomon.
The case will be prosecuted in Dauphin County by Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Sprow of the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit.
Corbett urged anyone with information about suspected child predators to contact the Child Predator Unit at 1-800-385-1044 or file an online complaint at the Attorney General's website. Detailed information about Internet safety is available by visiting the "Operation Safe Surf" and "Just 4 Kids" sections of the website.
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
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