QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A dozen people from the Capital Region and beyond are facing felony charges after a sex ring bust in Warren County.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Department along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York State Police set up a sting called Operation Spider Byte. Officials took on identities in online chat rooms to entice people to meet up with what they thought were young girls between the ages of 9 and 14.
“That’s sick,” Warren County Sheriff Bud York said. “We in society got to start doing something about this.”
York said he was disgusted by the arrests.
“I deal with this every day,” he said. “My people are dealing with criminal acts every day, and it doesn’t surprise me.”
Twelve people from the Capital Region, downstate New York and Massachusetts agreed to meet with the identities for the purpose of having sex but were promptly arrested.
“Most of them just nodded their heads and said a few curse words and said, ‘I should have known,’” NYSP Sr. Investigator Karl Meybaum said.
Among those arrested included 49-year-old Timothy Celeste, of Glens Falls, who is an on-air DJ for Q101.7. His manager would not comment to NEWS10 ABC about his future with the station, but his profile was taken off the station website.
Also arrested was 61-year-old Frank Gunther, of Mechanicville, who was a substitute school bus driver for the Mechanicville Central School District.
York said some of those arrested traveled miles from their homes.
“When they’re looking on the internet, they don’t care where they go,” he said. “If they think they’re going to be able to have sex with a child, they are going to drive.”
That included 52-year-old Thomas Abrams, who is the Captain of Westchester County Corrections.
York said he doesn’t think it’s the first time any of the men have done something similar.
“You want my gut feeling? My 40 years of experience? Absolutely,” he said. “But we don’t know that. We can’t prove that.”
But he said he wants to see harsher punishments for people who prey on children.
“I have a lot of grandkids; I have a lot of kids,” he said. “Wouldn’t you be angry if somebody did this to your kid?”
“If you are going to abuse our children, you should be taken off the streets for life,” he also said during a news conference. “I’m sorry. I feel that way. Because when they get out, they abuse another child, so it affects another family. So we have to as a society start thinking about stricter penalties for people who abuse our children.”
The sheriff’s department plans to continue similar investigations alongside the FBI.The 12 men arrested in Operation Spider Byte are as follows:
- Jose Roberto Zapata-Cruz, age 32, of Schenectady;
- Gerald F. Harrington III, age 36, of Queensbury;
- Thomas J. Clancy III, age 21, of Saratoga Springs;
- Mark D. Hodges, age 63, of Latham;
- Roger P. Whiting III, age 43, of Queensbury;
- Paul R. Wilson, age 31, of Fort Edward;
- Peter J. Fava, age 41, of Halifax, Mass.;
- William K. O’Connell, age 46, of Fort Edward;
- Timothy Celeste, age 49, of Glens Falls;
- Adam S. Hiedman, age 32, of Schenectady;
- Thomas G. Abrams, age 52, of Wappingers;
- Frank L. Gunther, age 61, of Mechanicville