Michael Fornesi, 20, said he got involved in a computer sex crime investigation early Monday morning by telling his friend - Lawrence police Sgt. Ryan Shafer - about an instant text message he received on his computer from a stranger seeking sex with a child.
On advice from Shafer, Fornesi pretended to be a 15-year-old boy and answered the e-mail. The e-mail exchange escalated into a telephone conversation, with the author, known as Topdadd, driving to Lawrence in hopes of having sex with the boy in the woods or in a hotel.
Less than an hour after Fornesi complained about the initial e-mail, Shafer was waiting in the dark parking lot of Day Charter School. About 1:15 a.m., he arrested Scondras.
Scondras, 60, of Cambridge, pleaded not guilty yesterday in Lawrence District Court to charges of enticement of a child under the age of 16, selling or delivering liquor to a person under 21, assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, and larceny under $250. He was released yesterday on $1,500 cash bail and is due back in court Nov. 16.
Judge Thomas Brennan ordered Scondras not to use his computer and to have no contact with children. The judge also imposed a bail warning that would result in Scondras being held in jail for up to 60 days if he had any further legal trouble while this case is pending.
"Here's the case of an aspiring police officer playing a key role in our apprehension of a would-be child sex predator," Lawrence police Chief John Romero said of Fornesi, whose father, John, is a 17-year member of the police force.
"The Internet can be a dangerous place for children to become the potential victims of pedophiles. That's why we need people to do what Mike did," Romero said.
Scondras' attorney David Duncan of Boston did not return telephone calls yesterday. Essex County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Strasnick is prosecuting the case.
Michael Fornesi is completing his associate's degree in criminal justice at Northern Essex Community College. He also works as a security guard and had just gone off duty shortly after midnight Monday when he met Shafer outside Lawrence General Hospital.
"If Ryan wasn't there, I probably would have ignored it," Fornesi said of the message he received on his portable laptop computer.