Three New Jersey convicted sex offenders - including one from Camden County - have been charged with surfing My-Space and Facebook, the state Attorney General's Office announced yesterday.
New Jersey State Police believe it's the first time anyone has been charged under a state law adopted in January that made it illegal for some registered sex offenders to use the Internet. Violators can face up to 18 months in prison.
Authorities and the operators of the popular Web sites have been trying to rid them of predators. At least two other states - Nevada and Florida - have similar laws that make the sites off-limits to some sex offenders, and more states have considered following suit.
In Florida, sex offenders are required to register their e-mail and instant-messaging names with the state, which turns the information over to MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites so they can block their access to those sites.
In the New Jersey case, State Police Lt. Joseph Furlong said the suspects - Pietro Parisi, 24, of Westville; Felice Black, 24, of Paterson; and Stanton Ulmer, 32, of Neptune - did not seem to be behaving improperly online. "But they are not allowed to be on there doing anything," Furlong said.
Furlong said state troopers set up accounts as teenagers to monitor the sex offenders, but he wouldn't elaborate on how they did that.
Authorities seized computers, a Web camera and a cell phone, and are still seeing what evidence might be on those devices.
The state law restricts Internet use for anyone who used a computer to help commit their original sex crime, such as trying to lure a potential victim with electronic correspondence. The law also may be applied to paroled sex offenders under lifetime supervision, but exempts computer work done as part of a job or search for employment.
The state Parole Board last year also adopted a rule prohibiting sex offenders under supervision from using the Internet to socialize or using social-networking sites.
All three men charged in New Jersey had underage victims in their original crimes and all are listed as moderate-risk sex offenders. Of the three, a judge had required only Parisi to be listed on the publicly available database of sex offenders.
None of the men could be reached for comment yesterday.