Transit Police report arresting a Chelsea man at the Orient Heights Blue Line stop whom they say was there to meet a 14-year-old boy for some sexual activity - but who turned out to be a member of a Massachusetts group that sets up stings to ensnare men they say are child predators.
Transit Police were not in on the operation Tuesday night by Predator Poachers Massachusetts, but dispatched officers to the station around 10:45 p.m. to deal with a reported "disturbance:"
Upon arrival officers were met by a male who informed the officers he produces an internet series in which he catches child predators. The reporting male party pointed out a male, later identified as Jose Hernandez, 36, of Chelsea and informed the officers Hernandez was there to meet, who he (Hernandez) believed was a 14 year old boy to engage in sexual activity with. The reporting male party showed the officers numerous incriminating and explicit text messages exchanged between Hernandez and who he (Hernandez) believed was a minor child. The reporting male party also displayed explicit photos allegedly sent by Hernandez to who he (Hernandez) believed was a minor child.
After "additional investigatory steps," the officer arrested Hernandez on a charge of enticement of a minor child under 16, police say.
Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan said he has mixed emotions about the way the arrest happened. "Although I appreciate the spirit in which they undertake their efforts, I feel it would be best left to professionally trained law enforcement," Sullivan said.
The group's leader, Jason Santana, poses as a 14-year-old boy online to try to arrange hookups with men. If a man agrees to a meeting, the group then sends one person to confront him - and another to video the interaction.
Last year, the group posted a video showing the police chief in Stow being confronted in such a sting. The case was continued without a finding for three years; he was ordered to stay away from children under 16 without permission.