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Old 04-24-2009, 10:41 AM
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Child porn sting nabs 21 suspects
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Last updated: Friday April 24, 2009, 6:46 AM
A retired Palisades Park guidance counselor and a member of the Old Tappan planning board were among 21 people arrested in a two-month child pornography investigation that spanned five New Jersey counties, authorities said today.

The sweep was among the largest of its kind in North Jersey, authorities said. Investigators from Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Sussex and Union counties joined the New Jersey State Police and the state attorney general’s office in conducting the sweep, which began in February.

The images seized depicted prepubescent children, some as young as 2-years-old, authorities said.

One of the defendants, Joseph Ponsi, 63, worked for more than three decades as a guidance counselor at Palisades Park Junior-Senior High School before retiring in 2004. The district superintendent, Mark Hayes, said he was “shocked” to hear that Ponsi had been charged with transmission and possession of child pornography.

“I can only tell you that Joe was a really solid guy,” Hayes said. “I can tell you, from my belief and impressions, that Joe was a beloved guy in the community and a tremendous guidance counselor.”

Hayes said Ponsi was among the first faculty members hired after the school opened in 1970, and that he served for many years as the varsity wrestling coach. Hayes said he has had only limited contact with Ponsi since Ponsi left the district four years ago.

Ponsi was released from the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack on April 16 after posting $50,000 bail. He did not return a telephone message left at his home in River Vale.

The investigation also led to the arrest of William Demarzo, 48, a member of the Old Tappan planning board. The planning board chairwoman, Rea Epstein, said Demarzo attended the board’s last meeting, on April 15, but declined further comment.

Demarzo was charged with transmission and possession of child pornography. He was released from the Bergen County Jail on Wednesday after posting $50,000 bail. He could not be reached.

A third defendant, Anthony Engstrom, 20, of Maywood, was arrested April 16, his first full day of work as a dispatcher for the Maywood Police Department. He also was charged with sexual assault for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl whom he had met through a local youth athletic league, authorities said.

First Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor William J. Galda did not release details about the investigation, nor did he discuss the images and videos that were seized. He said the investigation was “the largest one of this type that we have done.”

The names of five minors who were arrested were not released because they are underage. Of the remaining 16, 10 were from Bergen County and three were from Passaic County. The final three were from Morris, Sussex and Union counties.

“We had known, through our computer crimes unit, how widespread and prevalent this type of activity had become in society,” Galda said. “Being able to partner with these other groups to combat it was very successful and appropriate thing to do.”

The Passaic County Sheriff’s Office made five arrests, including two minors, said Bill Maer, a spokesman. One defendant — Gilbert Seidel, 45, of Hawthorne — had more than 1,500 images depicting child pornography on his computer, Maer said.

“That represents the biggest seizure of child pornography in Passaic County,” Maer said. “It really all comes down to the fact that the more people who are using computers and the Internet, the more law enforcement needs to patrol the Internet the same way we patrol the streets.”

The other defendants, all of whom were charged with transmission and possession of child pornography, were identified as:

Max Weinstein, age 18, of Mariners Cove in Edgewater

Joseph Ponsi, 63, of River Vale
Anthony Luciano, 23, of Park Ridge
Ronnie Franklin, 31, of Hackensack
Anthony Engstrom, 20, of Maywood - see earlier article from Friday, April 17 about another incident
William Demarzo, 48, of Old Tappan
Ramon Cruz, 36, of Bergenfield
Daniel Borjas, 31, of North Arlington
Christopher Bohan, 29, of Paramus
Daniel Berardo, 18, of Cresskill
Marc Serkin, 45, of Cranford, NJ (charged with possession of child pornography)
Gilbert Seidel, 45, of Hawthorne
Joseph J. Robibero, 30, of Vernon, NJ
John Prevete, 44, of Bloomingdale
Wilman Rangel Mejia, 44, of Paterson
Louis Beyer, 39, of Butler, NJ

Borjas served two years and four months of a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 1999 to burglary, theft and child-endangerment charges. Borjas earlier had been sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to a drug charge in 1997.

Staff Writer Christopher Schnaars contributed to this article. E-mail: lamb@northjersey.com

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Old 04-25-2009, 12:01 AM
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Angry Re: Disgusting

Disgusting and sickening... and worrisome... that news article was very comprehensive and with so many newspapers going out of business I wonder how (as in what method) many people will find out about this stuff since they don't go online or watch tv news... I know people who get ALL their news from daily papers and/or news magazines and won't learn internet skills...

Out here Megan's law and other similar websites are used frequently to stay current with sex offenders' whereabouts... Let's hope we don't have many power outages for those folks (well, and for many other reasons too)
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Old 04-25-2009, 09:30 AM
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Re: Disgusting

18 year olds. Cheese, I always picture pervs as dirty old men.
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Old 04-26-2009, 04:16 AM
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Re: Disgusting

yeah... but that 18 yr old's victim(s) might be only 7 or younger... and that's even more disgusting.

Too often the victim might be a very experienced and "mature" 15 and there might be lies involved that would trick the 18 yr old offender... And oftener still the offender is the liar... out where I work a lot of the sex offenders committed their crimes (at least 2 crimes) while under the influence... they spent time in jail then prison then at treatment in a state hospital.

By age 50, many (not all) of them have outgrown their "thirst" or "hunger".... unfortunately, it has been proven that most pedophiles cannot be cured even after physical and/or chemical castration and years of treatment. So, they get--for lack of a better word--"warehoused" to keep them off the streets... A very expensive but effective way to protect the public from these offenders.
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:58 PM
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Re: Disgusting

Joe Ponsi was there when I did my student teaching! This is really awful.
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