Jan. 18, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A Forest Hills man has been arrested for repeatedly trafficking a 13-year-old boy to Queens and sexually assaulting him after they met online.
Manuel Moretti, 39, was indicted in Brooklyn federal court Thursday on sex-trafficking charges after he allegedly lured the boy across state lines to his apartment on at least four occasions early last year for sex, according to the criminal complaint.
Moretti, an IT professional who works from home, is also accused of giving the boy a fake adult ID and continuing to contact him for sex after the defendant was interviewed by the FBI in December, prosecutors said.
Following the FBI interview, Moretti also allegedly told the victim to use a blocked telephone number to communicate with him in an apparent attempt to dodge law enforcement, prosecutors said.
“These allegations serve as a reminder of the dangers to our children from online predators and the importance of being aware of whom our children are communicating with online,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said.
“Our office is deeply committed to protecting vulnerable victims from sexual exploitation and will vigorously prosecute offenders like Moretti, who allegedly prey on children.”
Moretti met the boy on a social networking site in January 2021 and then arranged for the victim to travel to his Forest Hills apartment for sex on four separate occasions between January 2021 and April 2021, prosecutors said.
During the FBI interview in December, Moretti admitted to meeting the boy and engaging in sexual acts with him, prosecutors said.
Moretti described the boy as “young-looking” to the FBI but denied knowing the victim was 13-years-old, prosecutors said.
The defendant said he knew the victim was attending school and lived at home with his parents. Moretti also said he gave the boy an adult state identification document so that the victim could gain entry to his apartment.
Knowing the boy was 13, Moretti contacted the boy via Snapchat last month following the FBI interview in order to arrange another meet-up with him, prosecutors said
He was charged under the Mann Act with four counts of transportation of a minor and two counts of attempted interstate coercion and enticement of a minor.
He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.
Moretti was denied bail, deemed a danger to the community and a flight risk. Prosecutors also argued he may try to contact the victim again.
The FBI asked for the public’s assistance in identifying other possible sex crimes carried out by Moretti.
“Moretti may have victimized others and we’re asking anyone with information to call us at 1-800-CALL-FBI,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said.
The FBI also appealed to parents to speak to their children about staying safe online, following Moretti’s arraignment.
“Cyberspace may not seem real to some children, or even parents, but it poses a real danger as we allege in this investigation,” Driscoll said.
“Unfortunately, we can’t stop these crimes from happening because the internet allows sexual predators direct access to victims.”