9 arrested in sting operation

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BURLINGTON — The Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children task force arrested nine men in Chittenden County over the weekend in a sex crimes sting operation.

Agents posed as underage girls in online forums such as Craigslist and arranged to meet the men for sexual encounters. When the men arrived at the agreed upon locations, they were arrested.

Special Agent Caitlin Moynihan, with the Homeland Security Investigations, wrote in court filings that the undercover operation was "designed to identify persons using online social networks, e-commerce, and dating sites to lure children to engage in sexual acts."

Among those arrested was Brian Tierney, 48, of Colchester, whose case is being handled in federal court because he was using a cellphone, which triggered federal interstate commerce statutes. The other defendants are being charged in state superior court, according to Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell, head of the criminal division of the Vermont attorney general's office.

Tierney exchanged emails with Moynihan, who told him she was 14 years old — at one point sending him a picture of herself as a child, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. Tierney arrived at the meeting they arranged with his 3-year-old daughter in the back seat, the complaint says.

Tierney is charged with a felony for enticing a minor into sexual activity, which carries a minimum 10-year sentence.

The other eight defendants arrested as part of the sting are charged with luring a child, also a felony, Treadwell said.

Treadwell identified the other men arrested as Zachary Rose, 27, of Milton; Ralph Desmarais, 38, of Winooski; Jason Merritt, 29, of Chicopee, Mass.; Daniel Infantes, 36, of South Burlington; Edward Shannon, 51, of Essex Junction; Randy Sheltre, 55, of Alburgh; Senal Masic, 29, of South Burlington; and, Gregory Curtis, 57, of Burlington.

The Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children task force is an inter-agency task force housed within the attorney general's office. Treadwell said Homeland Security Investigations, the Chittenden and Orange County units for special investigations, the Orleans and Orange County sheriffs' offices, Vermont State Police, University of Vermont Police as well as Essex, Newport, Burlington and Bristol police all participated in the operation.

Morgan True is VTDigger's Burlington bureau chief covering the city and Chittenden County. He can be contacted at mtrue@vtdigger.org.

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