WOODLAND PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A Woodland Park police officer is accused of luring a 12-year-old girl whom he met while responding to an unrelated call for assistance at her home, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Woodland Park Police Officer Steven E. Vigorito, Jr., 39, was arrested while on duty Tuesday night. He is charged with attempted aggravated sexual assault, luring and enticing the girl, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said.
“We’re talking about someone who is potentially preying on a 12-year-old,” Valdes told reporters.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
The case began two days ago with the officer contacting the child’s family about an unrelated matter, officials said. The child’s mother then complained that the officer made inappropriate remarks to the girl.
The child’s parents tipped off police and detectives posing as the girl received explicit text messages from the officer, Valdes said. Detectives then posed as the 12-year-old and sent text messages back to the officer, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported.
“Officer Vigorito’s texts became increasingly sexually explicit. Eventually, the officer attempted to have the child meet with him for a sexual purpose,” Valdes said. “The texts — from what I was able to see — were fast and furious and more explicit as they went.”
In fact, investigators charge, the officer sent inappropriate and lewd photos of himself in uniform.
“From pictures we saw, it appeared he was in uniform but was exposed,” Valdes said.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports
Vigorito, a 12-year veteran, pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday was ordered held on $250,000 bail. He lives in a private community that was being protected from the media by police cars, reported CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
Woodland Park’s Police Chief Anthony Galietti, a father of five, appeared visibly troubled and disgusted after having to arrest one of his own officers, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.
“Something that’s alleged like this is very upsetting and I can assure you that’s not the way my department is run,” Galietti said.
Vigorito has also been suspended without pay and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Editor’s note: CBSNewYork.com regrets an earlier error incorrectly identifying Police Chief Anthony Galietti as the arrested officer.