PORTSTMOUTH, R.I. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey man was arrested Thursday after he was discovered in his apartment with a 13-year-old girl from Rhode Island who was reported missing the previous day.
Daniel Berger, 27, of Haskell, N.J., was charged with one federal count of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. During an appearance in federal court in Newark, Berger consented to being detained pending his removal to Rhode Island.
As CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported, police said computers may have held the key to the abduction.
Jeffrey Furtado, interim chief of the police department in Portsmouth, the girl’s hometown, said Berger and the teen had probably met on the Internet, had previously communicated online and that it appeared that she went with him willingly.
“This was not a random act or a child snatching,” Furtado said.
The girl was seen being abducted from her family’s condo complex in Portsmouth, Dardashtian reported.
“I seen a guy and a little girl leaving from the house, looked like they were kind of in a hurry. But I would never expect something bad to happen. But the guy was in the front and just pulling her behind him,” neighborhood landscaper Ewerton Afonso said.
Afonso said he saw the girl be pulled into a red Chrysler.
Furtado said the investigation was ongoing and there were a number of unanswered questions. Special Agent Colin Woods of the FBI’s Providence office said Berger could face additional charges.
Furtado would not say whether the girl needed medical attention, but said she had been united with her family in New Jersey.
Authorities would not discuss details of what happened or how they tracked down the two except to say that authorities found them in Berger’s apartment, around a four-hour drive from Portsmouth, at 1 a.m. Furtado said another male was in the apartment at the time and had been detained, but no charges had been filed.
An Amber Alert was issued in Rhode Island for the girl Wednesday afternoon after she was reported missing by her mother that morning. Police said a witness saw someone matching the girl’s description leave home with a man.
Furtado said the case shows that parents have to be aware of their children’s online activity, know what they’re doing and who they’re communicating with.
“Young people often don’t realize the dangers of simple activities that they engage in on a daily basis, such as going online,” Furtado said. “They don’t have the life experience to understand just how much danger they’re placing themselves in. There are certainly predators out there that are very manipulative and can coerce some of these young children into doing things that if they knew better, knew the dangers, probably would not engage in that type of activity.”
Berger faces at least 10 years and up to life if convicted, Dardashtian reported.
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