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Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A Middle Village man pleaded guilty this week to charges that he tried to set up a sexual encounter with a teenage girl who turned out to be an undercover cop in an online chat room.

Joseph R. Sylvester, 51, of 78th Street entered a guilty plea to one count of second-degree rape on Tuesday before Queens Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt. He faces up to six months behind bars and 10 years of probation when he is sentenced on Sept. 7.

Sylvester was arrested on Jan. 5 at an undisclosed location in Queens where he arranged to meet up with an individual whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl but who was, in reality, an undercover NYPD detective. According to prosecutors, Sylvester and the detective first made contact in November 2015 in an AOL chat room.

Using the screen name armystrongny[at]aol.com, law enforcement sources noted, Sylvester identified himself as a 50-year-old man and exchanged pictures with the undercover agent. They engaged in several chats and exchanged text messages numerous times between Nov. 24, 2015 and Jan. 5 of this year, many of which Sylvester initiated and were sexual in nature.

After their first encounter, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, Sylvester expressed a desire to meet with the girl. This led to the Jan. 5 meeting, whereupon Sylvester was taken into custody by members of the NYPD Vice Enforcement Major Case Unit.

“This case underscores the crucial importance of internet surveillance by law enforcement to protect children from sexual predators,” Brown said in a statement. “This should serve as a warning to parents to closely monitor their children’s internet access and activities because sexual predators continue to relentlessly troll the internet for victims.”

In addition to jail time and probation, Sylvester will also be required to enroll in the state’s sex offender registry and complete a sex offender reform program.

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