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Phila. chef Alex Capasso facing child porn charges

Alex Capasso, the chef arrested in July after a federal agent said he had sent sexually explicit photos and video of a young girl, faces child-pornography charges filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Camden.

Chef Alex Capasso, in 2008.
Chef Alex Capasso, in 2008.Read moreMICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer, file

Alex Capasso, the chef arrested in July after a federal agent said he had sent sexually explicit photos and video of a young girl, faces child-pornography charges filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Camden.

Shortly after he was arrested July 20, Capasso, 42, of West Collingswood, was remanded to federal custody in Washington, where an affidavit was filed by a detective from the district's police department working with federal investigators.

At a hearing Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Washington, however, the case was transferred to New Jersey. Capasso, who remained in custody Monday, is charged with sexual exploitation of children, production of child pornography, and distributing child pornography.

In a detention memo filed in July, prosecutors branded Capasso a "sexual predator."

Investigators said they first encountered Capasso after he responded to an agent's posting on an Internet site frequented by people with a sexual interest in children and incest. He identified himself in subsequent emails as Mike, a 40-year-old bar owner from the Philadelphia area.

When the agent identified himself as a "perv dad" with a 9-year-old daughter he was willing to offer for sex, Capasso responded that he was "100% serious!" The 9-year-old girl did not exist, prosecutors said.

"No limits. Nothing too nasty," Capasso wrote, according to court filings. "Yes, even the illegal stuff."

Later, when asked whether he would be willing to travel to Washington for a sexual encounter, he allegedly replied, "I would do that in a heartbeat."

Throughout his exchanges with agents over several days in early July, Capasso also allegedly attempted to barter photos of a former girlfriend's niece for photos of the 9-year-old. He told the agent that he only "touched her when she was asleep," and that he had lost contact with the girl after her mother moved away, according to court documents.

Investigators said in court filings that they had been sent explicit photos of a girl identified as the niece of the former girlfriend. The girl was born in 2008, according to a court filing.

Court filings also said he had told undercover agents that he had repeatedly abused the girl sexually with the former girlfriend's help. He also said he was looking forward to abusing his soon-to-be born daughter.

His former girlfriend, who also lives in Camden County, was charged with production of child pornography after agents said they found several pornographic images on Capasso's phone and laptop of her engaging in sexual acts with her niece. The Inquirer is not identifying her because of her relationship to the child. She is being held in a federal corrections facility in Philadelphia.

In court filings, investigators said they had identified Capasso as the sender through a variety of methods, including a video he had taken that showed his cracked BlackBerry screen. Capasso also had provided his cell number to undercover agents.

When he was arrested, Capasso purportedly denied that the photos he sent were of anyone he knew. Prosecutors say he admitted trading child pornography, but maintained that he had found the images on the Internet.

During a search of Capasso's phone, agents discovered several nonpornographic photos of the same girl, according to court filings.

Capasso previously served one year of probation after pleading guilty to a state charge of engaging in lewd or offensive acts in Camden County. He was originally charged with sexual assault in that case, court records show.

Capasso gained notice as a chef at a succession of restaurants, including Max's, Misto, and Blackbird Dining Establishment. He was a founder of Crow & the Pitcher, a wine bar near Rittenhouse Square, but has been disassociated from the restaurant.

Inquirer staff writer Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.