A New York City police officer was arrested Thursday after posing as a 17-year-old on social media to solicit sexually explicit photos and videos from at least 46 minors, according to federal prosecutors.
Officer Carmine Simpson, 26, of Holbrook, New York, targeted “vulnerable children” on Twitter between the ages of 13 and 17, often requesting pornographic content, acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said Thursday in a statement.
According to court documents, Simpson sent photos of himself that were filtered so he would appear younger. He also sent lewd requests to girls, instructing them to write explicit phrases or his name in marker on their bodies, prosecutors said. In one case, Simpson allegedly asked a 15-year-old girl to choke herself with a belt. Authorities said he obtained at least 18 images and 33 videos containing sexually exploitative material of the teens over a period of nine months.
“Instead of protecting the community as a sworn police officer, the defendant has preyed upon and sexually exploited the most vulnerable members,” DuCharme said.
Todd Greenberg, Simpson’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
On Thursday, Simpson was arraigned on a charge of production of child pornography in a Long Island federal court. He did not enter a plea, but Greenberg said his client understood the “seriousness of the allegations” and would plead not guilty at a later date, NBC New York reported.
A federal magistrate judge ordered Simpson held without bail pending trial, according to the news station.
“One of the major concerns I have is that this is not a one-off incident here,” A. Kathleen Tomlinson said. “This series of events went on for months and months. There’s a pattern that clearly was established here.”
If convicted, Simpson faces a minimum of 15 years in prison.
A police spokeswoman told NBC News in an email on Friday that Simpson was immediately suspended without pay.
“The allegations in this case are reprehensible,” Annette Shelton said in a statement. “The NYPD has zero tolerance for any officer who would endanger children or betray his oath in such a manner.”