A Jersey Shore man who convinced a 14-year-old girl he met online to carve his initials above her breast with a razor blade threatened to hurt her and her family if she didn’t meet his demands, an indictment returned Wednesday by a state grand jury alleges.
Jason Berry, 40, of Keansburg also “demanded that the girl photograph herself engaging in acts of sexual penetration,” then sent some of the images to her mother, the indictment returned in Trenton charges.
He also sent the girl “sexually explicit photos and videos of himself,” it adds.
The case “demonstrates how powerful online predators can be, although they may be hundreds of miles away, by using threats and manipulation to assault their victims both mentally and physically,” New Jersey State Police Supt. Col. Patrick Callahan said.
Berry met the out-of-state girl on social media, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
She thought he was “another teenager seeking a friend,” Grewal said.
However, his “friendly advances quickly turned into intimidation and extortion,” the attorney general said.
Berry was arrested on June 18, 2020, as part of “Operation Screen Capture,” a massive investigation that the attorney general said was launched “in response to a dramatic increase in reports of potential threats to children from online predators during the COVID pandemic.”
Twenty-one defendants in all were charged with “predatory behavior against children” or possession and/or distribution of child porn, he said.
Berry, who has remained held in the Monmouth County Jail pending trial, was indicted on several charges, including manufacturing child sexual abuse material, aggravated sexual assault and extortion.
“This case starkly illustrates the dangers of social media and the need for parents to warn their children about these dangers,” Grewal said.
He thanked the New Jersey State Police ICAC Unit, the state Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, and “our out-of-state partners” for their work on the case and cited the work of Deputy Attorney General Adedayo Adu in securing the indictment.
Grewal and Callahan, the NJSP superintendent, pledged to continue seeking out and prosecuting predators.
At the same time, Callahan added, “we need parents to join us in the fight by closely monitoring the online activity of their children and educating them about the dangers of online predators.”
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