19 alleged child predators arrested in ‘Operation Open Door’

SOMERVILLE, NJ — A West Orange man was among 19 alleged child predators arrested in “Operation Open Door,” according to an Oct. 31 press release from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. 

Julio Cubia-Aviles, 27, of West Orange, who is a carpenter by trade, is charged with second-degree luring, second-degree attempted sexual assault and third-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a child.

According to Somerset Prosecutor Michael Robertson, “Operation Open Door” was a multiagency undercover operation that sought individuals using social media applications to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity. These “underage children” were actually undercover law enforcement officers who are specially trained members of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The defendants arrested in this operation allegedly initiated contact based on profiles posted by the undercover law enforcement officers on social media platforms. Once chatting began, the undercover officers clearly identified themselves as underage girls or boys. Despite that information, the defendants allegedly engaged the “children” in conversations about sex and made arrangements to meet the “children” for sex. Most defendants were arrested when they arrived at one of two residences in Somerset County, where they expected to find their victims home alone.

The arrests in “Operation Open Door” were made over a six-day period from Oct. 23 through 28. One defendant traveled to one of the undercover houses from Pennsylvania. Two of the defendants lived out-of-state and were in New Jersey for work when they decided to travel to meet with a “child’ for sex. The defendants are variously charged with first-degree promoting prostitution of a child under the age of 18, second-degree luring, second-degree attempted sexual assault of a minor, third-degree attempted endangering the welfare by debauching the morals of a child, and third-degree attempt to promote obscene material to a child. The defendants will be prosecuted by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.

The undercover residences were staffed with dozens of law enforcement officers from around the state, forensic examiners and attorneys from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. Electronic devices were seized from the defendants and examinations of those devices are ongoing. The investigative review of the forensic examinations is a lengthy process and will enable investigators to determine if the devices contain evidence of any prior encounters by the defendants with underage victims, which might constitute additional cases of luring, sexual assault or child endangerment.

“By arresting 59 alleged child predators in just over a year through three undercover operations across New Jersey, including Operation Open Door, we have sent a powerful message to predators that the boy or girl they target on social media may turn out to be the officer who puts them in handcuffs,” Attorney Gen. Gurbir Grewal said in the press release. “Through these collaborative efforts, we also are delivering a message to parents that we must all do our part to protect children by talking to them and warning them that predators use popular chat apps and gaming platforms to lure children into danger. We have no higher priority than protecting our children.”

These charges are merely accusations. All defendants are considered innocent unless or until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty in a court of law.