A Tenafly man was arrested after a vigilante who publicly exposes child predators lured him to the Bronx for what he thought would be a hook-up with a 14-year-old girl, authorities said.
A video posted on YouTube shows the unidentified vigilante confronting Jonathan Soto, 28, in a parked minivan.
“What’s your mother gonna say about this?” the man asks during a nearly 15-minute conversation peppered with profanity and sexual descriptions.
Authorities obtained search warrants after intensely investigating the authenticity of the "To Catch a Predator"-styled sting, which they said was brought to their attention by a concerned citizen.
They learned that Soto used the anonymous chat app “Whisper” to send “sexually-explicit text messages” to what he believed was an underage girl, Tenafly Police Capt. Michael deMoncada said Friday.
They also discovered that Soto “arranged to meet that underage person in New York City for the purpose of a sexual encounter,” the captain said.
The “victim” was actually “an adult posing as an underage girl for the purpose of exposing child predators who use the Internet and anonymous chat rooms to solicit sex,” deMoncada.
The vigilante -- who uses female friends to communicate with his targets -- approaches Soto in the “Creeps Spotlight” video as he sits behind the wheel of a maroon Dodge Caravan.
“You came all the way from Jersey to meet a girl,” he says. “I got your face and everything.”
WARNING: This video contains profanity and descriptions of sexual situations:
“Talk to me, Alex,” he says, addressing Soto by a pseudonym he allegedly used. “Either that or I’ll go to the cops right now. Either that or I’ll let everyone in this neighborhood know what you’re doing.”
A sullen Soto refuses to fully roll down his window, rendering much of what he says inaudible.
At one point, the heavily-tattooed target says it’s his first time.
“I think it’s your first time gettin’ caught,” the vigilante responds.
He continues to press Soto:
- “You have a niece, sisters? Imagine a grown-ass man talking like that?”
- “This is gonna go viral and you might get prosecuted. Cause everything you did was illegal.”
- “This is what it is: You came down here. You f****d up.”
- “You in the wrong. You came out here to meet a kid.”
- “Honestly. I think you need some help. I want to put y’all in jail. You shouldn’t be walkin’. Am I right? Am I wrong?”
“I just want to know why,” the vigilante eventually tells Soto. “Cause either that or you’re gonna talk to the cops when they knock on your door.”
Soto ends the encounter by driving off.
Soto surrendered Wednesday to borough detectives, who charged him with luring, criminal attempt and child endangerment. They then sent him to the Bergen County Jail while continuing their investigation.
Hours later, a judge in Central Judicial Processing Court released Soto pending further court action.
Police asked that anyone with information related to the case contact Tenafly detectives at: (201) 568-5100.
They also warned that "To Catch a Predator”-style tactics can be unsafe for those who aren’t trained in law enforcement -- which they said includes the vigilantes, targets and possibly innocent bystanders.
CREEPS SPOTLIGHT, based in New York City, describes itself as a channel is "for educational and awareness purposes only" and "strives to protect the children in our communities from these online predators and creeps. By catching and exposing these predators were raising community awareness around this overlooked issues. We hope to have our officials toughen the laws and legislative. We do not condone or endorse any harm coming to the individuals portrayed in the videos. Any violent acts toward anyone portrayed in our content will not be tolerated and will be frowned upon."
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