Dalton man charged with enticing minor on internet

By Bob Dunn, The Berkshire Eagle NEWBURYPORT — A Dalton man was arrested Tuesday, after being caught up in a sting operation in which he allegedly tried to lure a police detective posing as a 14-year-old girl into having sex. James D.

Lafrance, 63, was arrested without incident and charged with enticing a child under 16, sending obscene matter to a minor and disseminating obscene matter. According to court files obtained by The Eagle, Newbury Police Detective Aaron Wojtkowski was working undercover, investigating the exploitation of children on the internet, when Lafrance made contact with him Aug.

20. Wojtkowski was conducting surveillance of an online chat room designed for children ages 13 to 16.

During that surveillance, Wojtkowski received a private message from a user with the screen name “johhnybmass.” During the initial conversation, Wojtkowski identified himself as 14. “That’s fine with me,” was the alleged response.

According to a police report, Lafrance provided a Gmail address under the screen name “John Waters.” Over the next few days, “Waters,” later identified as Lafrance, sent numerous messages to the undercover account, according to police. The texts of those messages was not included among the provided documents, but police said they were consistent with online offenders who “target and groom children” for sex or for the production of illicit pictures and videos. Lafrance also allegedly sent messages suggesting that he would travel to meet for sex and said he would pick up the girl and have sex with her in his truck.

According to the report, Lafrance maintained contact with investigators over the course of several days and made it clear he was interested in meeting who he thought was a girl for sex, despite it being against the law. During a video call set up between Lafrance and another undercover officer, Lafrance allegedly undressed and performed a sex act on himself.

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Over the course of the next several days, Lafrance sent more messages to undercover officers, including some that indicated he was aware that he could go to jail if caught, police said. Lafrance made arrangements to meet at a prearranged location around noon Tuesday.

Police at the Martin Burns Wildlife Management Area in Byfield saw a truck matching the description Lafrance had given. Lafrance told police he was in the area to take a walk, but investigators confirmed that he was the same person in the video call. Inside Lafrance’s truck, police found a six-pack of hard lemonade, apparently purchased that same morning, along with his cellphone, towels, tissues and other items.

Lafrance voluntarily provided the passcode to his phone after being told police were seeking a search warrant for its contents. He was arraigned Wednesday in Newburyport District Court, entered not guilty pleas and had bail set at £20,000, according to the Newburyport News. A message left with Dalton Police Chief Jeffrey Coe, inquiring whether the department has had dealings with Lafrance in the past or participated in a reported search of his home, during which several firearms were seized, was not immediately returned.

A check of electronic records in Berkshire Superior Court under Lafrance’s name returned no results. Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249. If you’d like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us.

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