New Jersey

10 Child Predators Arrested in Undercover Sting Operation, DA Says

The investigation, which involved multiple law enforcement agencies, targeted men who lurked the internet to have sex with children under the age of 15.

What to Know

  • Ten men were arrested in an undercover operation targeting child predators in the Philadelphia area and beyond, officials announced.
  • The investigation, which involved multiple law enforcement agencies, targeted men who lurked the internet to have sex with minors.
  • Two of the suspects are an airline pilot and flight attendant who were in Philadelphia on a layover, officials said.

A month-long, undercover sting operation led to the arrests of ten child predators, including a pilot and a flight attendant who happened to be in Philadelphia on a layover on the same day, officials announced Thursday.

The investigation, which involved multiple law enforcement agencies, targeted men who lurked the internet to have sex with children under the age of 15.

Marvin Jennings, 53, of Philadelphia; Mohammed Merchant, 24, of North Brunswick, New Jersey; Gregory Sylvia, 32, of Peabody, Massachusetts; Santhosh Akinepalli, 27, of Exton, Pennsylvania; Anthony Quairoli, 22, of Essington, Pennsylvania; Michael Norman, 38, of Las Vegas, Nevada; Kenneth Ruzat, 54, of Trainer, Pennsylvania; Andrew Oatley, 23, of Galena, Maryland; Roberto Ascenion, 37, of Norristown, Pennsylvania; and Sachin Shetty, 28, of Hatfield, Pennsylvania; were all arrested in connection to the investigation.

“These defendants actively sought out and targeted juveniles, attempting to prey upon our youth, for their own warped sexual gratification,” Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland said. “That is the very definition of predatory behavior.”

One of the suspects, Michael Norman, was a flight attendant and in Philadelphia on a layover in early April, investigators said. Norman allegedly prowled a social networking website and asked who he thought was a 15-year-old boy to meet up for sex. That “boy" was actually an undercover corporal with the Pennsylvania State Police and Norman was arrested, according to officials.

The same day of Norman’s arrest, Gregory Sylvia, an airline pilot, was also in Philadelphia on a layover. Sylvia allegedly sent nude photos on a social media website to a person he thought was a 15-year-old boy. The “boy” was the same undercover corporal who caught Norman, investigators said.

Marvin Jennings had already been found guilty of rape years ago, according to court records. Yet that didn’t stop him from driving to Ridley Township back on April 30 to have sex with who he thought was a 14-year-old girl, investigators said. That “girl” ended up being an undercover Ridley Township police officer.

Jennings, Merchant, Akinepalli, and Shetty are all charged with attempt to commit statutory sexual assault and related offenses.

Sylvia, Norman, Ruzat, and Oatley are all charged with attempt to commit involuntary sexual intercourse and other related offenses.

Finally, Quairoli and Ascenion are both charged with attempt to commit rape of a child and related offenses.

“This undercover operation is a reminder to parents and community members how important it is to talk with their children, monitor internet use, and report any suspicious activity to our ICAC (Internet Crime Against Children) Task Force,” Copeland said. “I would like to commend our ICAC Task Force members and its various law enforcement partners for their continued work in locating and apprehending these perpetrators.”

Delaware County District Attorney's Office
Top Left to Right: Santhosh Akinepalli, Sachin Shetty, Roberto Flores Ascenion, Mohammed S. Merchant, Michael Norman. Bottom Left to Right: Marvin Gus Jennings, Kenneth Albert Ruzat, Gregory Sylvia, Anthony Quairoli, Andrew Oatley. See full-sized image here.
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