Nine charged with soliciting minors

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KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A Luzerne County sting snares nine men accused of trying to meet kids online for sex.

And police say this is only the beginning. Police in Kingston say nine men have been charged for trying to meet up with children online for sex.

Zachary Mitchell of Kunkletown is headed to Luzerne County Jail. He’s one of the nine men Kingston Police charged with soliciting minors online for sex on Tuesday. Kingston Police Chief Richard Kotchik says it’s the result of a years-long investigation.

“It’s an eye-opener to the public. It’s alarming, some of the things that we’re seeing and the people we’re coming across. If you’re going to commit these types of crimes or attempt to commit these types of crimes with children, you will be arrested,” Kotchik said.

The round-up includes Christopher Mazzino, a Valley View School District administrator and former West Scranton High School teacher. In July, the district suspended Mazzino indefinitely after a run-in with the Luzerne County predator catcher, Musa Harris.

Harris says he was posing as a 15-year-old boy online when Mazzino arranged to meet him in Kingston for sex.

“I’m glad that there’s somebody out there now that’s willing to take the evidence,” Harris said.

All nine of the men charged Tuesday were originally caught by Harris, who then turned the information over to the Kingston Police Department.

“Ever since I moved to Kingston it’s looking up for me especially with the cops dealing with these guys. I’ve got a cop here in this town that’s eager to do something with these guys,” Harris said.

Harris can “catch” the alleged predators, but it’s up to law enforcement to get them off the street. He says he’s glad Kingston Detective Stephen Gibson, who investigates sex crimes, was willing to look at the evidence and start his own investigations.

“Just like with any witness that would come forward to the police, we’re going to investigate it. So when he comes forward with information just as if anybody else would, we’re going to investigate and if we’re able to make an arrest on it we will do that,” Gibson said.

Police charged the majority of the men with unlawful contact with a minor, criminal solicitation to commit statutory sexual assault, and criminal use of a communication facility.

“There’s still many cases that are going to be reviewed and you know I look at this as Round One. There’s going to be more, and if you’re a predator I’d be nervous…I’d be nervous,” Kotchik said.

According to police, seven people have been arrested and warrants have been issued for two other suspects. Six out of the nine men are currently in police custody. One is expected to turn himself in and two are at large.

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