Over the past few years, state lawmakers have taken on the challenge of dealing with accused child predators among the ranks of teachers and educators in New Jersey schools.

In 2018, the so-called “pass the trash” law went into effect, requiring stricter New Jersey school background checks related to child abuse and sexual misconduct.

The follow individuals were arrested over the past several years. Some have been convicted and sentenced to prison, while others have accepted plea deals for probation.

Others cases are still pending, including some court delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

(SJR Wrestling, @SJRWrestling via Twitter)

John Denuto

The former New Jersey middle school teacher was initially charged in 2020 with sexual assault of a teenager, possession of child pornography, photographing a child in a sex act and child endangerment.

(Bergen County Prosecutor's Office)

Samantha Krakower

The Leonia High School gym teacher and coach was charged in April with molesting a student.

Bergen County prosecutors said school officials discovered that the then-24-year-old Krakower had been having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student.

The Palisades Park resident was charged with second-degree sexual assault, second-degree child endangerment and fourth-degree sexual contact.


Thomas Guzzi Jr.

The now-former elementary school teacher pleaded guilty in 2019 to charges that he made a perverted recording of a student and used hidden cameras in restrooms to create child pornography.

Guzzi Jr. was 39-year-old when he pleaded guilty to second-degree charges of official misconduct, manufacturing child pornography and distributing at least 25 files of child porn. He received a 17-year prison term when sentenced in Sept. 2019 and currently is eligible for parole in September 2029.

He also will have to register as a Megan's Law offender. His teaching license has already been revoked.

(Hudson County Prosecutor's Office)

Apparao Sunkara

The 67-year-old teacher was accused in March of sexually assaulting a Jersey City student in 2019. Sunkara was arrested at his Long Island home.

He has denied the charges against him.

Prosecutors said he had assaulted an 11-year-old girl at the Infinity Institute, a public magnet school with students from 6th through 12th grade. Sunkara began teaching in the district in 2012, according to public records.

(Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

Gustavo Barrientos

The Tinton Falls resident was initially accused in February of raping a 10-year-old girl while he was an elementary school teacher in Long Branch.

Two weeks later, the 53-year-old Barrientos was additionally charged with sexually assaulting multiple other elementary school children, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced.

Barrientos also previously worked as a teacher in the Red Bank Charter School, according to the prosecutor's office. Authorities did not disclose how many additional student assaults were being investigated.

(Harris County Sheriff's Office)

Ricardo Valle

The former music teacher in Ocean City was arrested in February on charges of molesting a student five years earlier, whom prosecutors said he forced to perform a sex act on him.

The 34-year-old Valle was arrested in Seabrook, Texas, on charges of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female student in the choir room at Ocean City High School in 2016, according to Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland.

Valle resigned from his position months later, according to Ocean City Board of Education meeting minutes.

(Camden County Prosecutor's Office)

Bridget Sipera

The former Camden Catholic High School female teacher was sentenced in May to four years in prison for having sex with a teen student multiple times, according to Acting Camden County Prosecutor Jill Mayer.

Sipera, of Cherry Hill, previously pleaded guilty to third-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

The 37-year-old woman was arrested in August 2020 after the unidentified young man went to police with details of the encounters, which started when he was 17.

(Hudson County Prosecutor's Office)

Francisco Realpe

The public school teacher, who lives in Hoboken, was arrested in February 2020 and accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female student in Jersey City in fall 2019.

Realpe had been a gym teacher at Dickinson High School since 2005.

Weeks later, he was charged with second-degree sexual assault, stemming from an incident in 2004 while Realpe was a teacher at what was then Union Hill High School in Union City, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced.


Lauren Mitchell

The former charter school teacher in Jersey City was sentenced in August 2019 to five years in state prison for sexually assaulting a female eighth grader in 2015.

Mitchell, now 38, has to serve 85% of the sentence she received in Bergen County Superior Court and is eligible for parole in October 2023.

She also must register as a Megan’s Law offender and is banned from ever holding a teaching or government job again, under the terms of her sentence.

(Paul Iantosca via Twitter)

Paul Iantosca

The former Denville middle school principal was accused in 2019 of trying to have sex with a 16-year-old former student. In a plea deal that spared him prison time, more serious charges of attempted luring and attempted sexual assault were dropped.

The Randolph resident was sentenced to two years of probation in September 2019, as reported by the Morristown Daily Record, after retiring months earlier.

He also agreed to give up all teaching and school administrative certificates, as part of the plea agreement.

(Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office)

David Holmes

The New Brunswick elementary school teacher was arrested in July 2019 after having repeated sexual contact with a 15-year-old former student, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey announced.

Prosecutors said he had taught the victim and was mentoring the teen when the inappropriate sexual contact happened, starting in September 2018.

Holmes, of the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, was charged with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, and fourth-degree engaging in criminal sexual contact.

(Essex County jail)

Luis Aviles

A Newark art teacher was arrested and charged in June 2019 with multiple counts of sexual assault against a 14-year-old male student, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens announced.

Aviles, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was employed by Newark Public Schools for 19 years.

The victim said that Aviles began sexually assaulted him in December 2017, with repeated incidents into September 2018, Stephens said.

(Somerset County Prosecutor's Office)

Michelina Aichele

The former Montgomery high school English teacher accused of sending nude photos of herself and explicit messages to a male student pleaded guilty in April 2019 to child endangerment.

Aichele was sentenced in July 2019 to just under a year in county jail, as the sentence was suspended, according to court records.

The Hillsborough resident also was required to register as a sex offender and surrender her teaching certificate.


Eugene Colbert

The New Brunswick Middle School assistant basketball coach and paraprofessional pleaded guilty in June 2019 to aggravated sexual assault, after being accused of raping a 13-year-old girl on school grounds.

He was fired by the New Brunswick school system, where he had been employed since 2009 and was sentenced in September 2019 to five years in state prison.


Brantley Cesanek

The Haddon Township resident and former Latin teacher was sentenced in November 2019 to five years in prison, after admitting to a sexual relationship with one of his students at Cherokee High School.

Cesanek pleaded guilty to second-degree child endangerment. He initially had also been charged with sexual assault.

He was paroled in December 2020, according to state prison records.

(Burlington County Prosecutor's Office)

Rayna Culver

Culver was arrested in May 2017, accused of sexually assaulting a former student she adopted after he was kicked out of his family's home. She lost her teaching credentials in November 2019.

She initially was indicted in 2018 on first-degree aggravated sexual assault, four counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of second-degree child endangerment.

In a plea deal, Culver pleaded guilty to third-degree child endangerment and was sentenced in May 2020 to one year probation, according to court records.

(Bergen County Prosecutor's Office)

Phillip Cerone

Cerone was a South Hackensack teacher's aide who was arrested in 2017, accused of sexually assaulting a girl. He pleaded guilty in May 2019 to fourth-degree criminal sexual contact and was sentenced to five years of probation.

Cerone also agreed to give up his elementary teaching certificate, which was revoked in 2019.

(Chelsea Hahn via Facebook)

Chelsea Hahn

Hahn was convicted in 2019 of child endangerment. She was an English teacher at Ewing High School when arrested in 2018, accused of sending a nude photo of herself to a 17-year-old student and asking him to have sex.

In June 2019, the then-26-year-old pleaded guilty and was accepted into the court's pre-trial intervention program, allowing her to avoid prison and a criminal record if she stayed out of trouble for three years and completed 40 hours of community service.

As part of the deal, she also gave up her teaching certificate.

(Bergen County Prosecutor's Office)

Ronald Kraus

Kraus was accused of molesting a six-year-old girl in 2017. He was sentenced in 2018 to five years of probation on an endangerment charge, as part of a plea deal.

More serious charges of sexual assault were dropped and he did not have to register as a sex offender. Kraus also agreed to give up his teaching certificate, as made official in January 2019.

(Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office)

Jessica Gaeckle

The South Jersey high school teacher was arrested in 2019 for having sex with a student — even though he was of legal age.

Gaeckle, a Galloway resident, was a 30-year-old teacher at Pleasantville High School when prosecutors said she had sex with an 18-year-old student on at least two occasions.

She pleaded not guilty to official misconduct and hindering and was slated for a virtual, initial disposition conference in September 2020.

NJ arrests 31 accused child predators in "Operation 24/7"

A roundup of 31 men have been accused of sexually exploiting children online, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced on July 14 while detailing "Operation 24/7."

The suspects “possessed and or distributed videos and images of child sexual abuse, including in many cases videos of young children being raped by adults,” Grewal said.

Chat apps and gaming platforms remain favorite hunting grounds for child predators and even as the pandemic winds down, many children have continued to spend more time online.

State Police received 39% more tips in just the first 6 months of 2021 than they received in the entire year in 2019. The following are suspects charged in "Operation 24/7."

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