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Sex offenders accused of social networking use

/ Source: The Associated Press

Three convicted sex offenders have been arrested in New Jersey after allegedly surfing social networking Web sites. They are believed to be the first charged under a new law restricting their use of the Internet, authorities said Friday.

State police set up accounts on MySpace and Facebook, posing as teenagers to monitor the sex offenders, Lt. Joseph Furlong said, but he wouldn't elaborate. The suspects did not seem to be behaving improperly online, "but they are not allowed to be on there doing anything," he said.

The law adopted in January restricts Internet use for convicted sex offenders 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. Violators can face up to 18 months in prison.

Last year, the state Parole Board also adopted a rule prohibiting sex offenders under supervision them from using the Internet to socialize or use social networking sites.

All three of the men charged — Pietro Parisi, 24, of Westville; Felice Black, 24, of Paterson; and Stanton Ulmer, 32, of Neptune — 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.

Computers, Web camera seized
The men were all released from custody on their own recognizance. None of the men could be reached for comment Friday. No working telephone listing could be found for Parisi or Black; a call to a listing believed to be Ulmer's rang unanswered.

Authorities seized computers, a Web camera and a cell phone — and are still seeing what evidence might be on those devices.

Furlong said each has admitted to maintaining an account on one of the sites even after being told by a parole officer that doing so was against the law and signing a paper to acknowledge that he understood.

Authorities and the operators of the popular Web sites have been trying to scour them of predators. MySpace, the world's largest online social network with 200 million users worldwide and Facebook, which has more than 70 million active users worldwide, have added safeguards to protect young users from sexual predators and cyberbullies.

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.