Officer held in Internet sex sting

The Gloucester Twp. policeman is accused of propositioning an agent he thought was 13 and exposing himself via a Web cam.

Posted: June 13, 2007

A South Jersey police officer was suspended without pay yesterday after being charged with propositioning an undercover agent on the Internet whom he believed was a 13-year-old girl, authorities said.

Edward Berzins, 37, a seven-year veteran of the Gloucester Township Police Department, was taken into custody Monday at his home in Blackwood. Yesterday, Chief Edward S. Smith said Berzins was suspended without pay with intent to dismiss.

"If the charges are correct, I am sickened by his actions," said township Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton. "I am confident our Police Department has taken all the appropriate action in this matter."

Berzins first made contact in April with an undercover agent from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. The agent, who works in the child predator unit, posed as an eighth-grade girl on an Internet chat room devoted to pop music.

During a series of instant-message chats on Yahoo.com, Berzins used the screen name kickinbaknchillin and said he was a 21-year-old man from Philadelphia, according to court papers.

On April 19, he asked the fictitious girl for a photograph. When the agent, Jessica L. Lynn, provided a picture, he gave her access to his Web cam. As the chat continued, Berzin discussed dropping his boxer shorts and exposing himself.

Four days later, he messaged her again and exposed himself, the affidavit says. On April 24, he sent several pictures of his genitals to the fictional girl's e-mail account and transmitted a live video of himself masturbating, the court papers say.

The undercover agent recorded it all with a computer image-capturing program. The agent then filed a court order with Yahoo Inc., which provided the Internet account that led to Berzin's identity.

His arrest is the 77th since the creation of Pennsylvania's child predator unit.

Berzins is charged with one count each of unlawful contact with a minor, criminal attempted obscene and sexual performances, and criminal use of a computer, all third-degree felonies, each punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Berzins waived extradition and was transported to Harrisburg for preliminary arraignment in Dauphin County court. He was lodged in the Dauphin County Prison on $50,000 bail.


Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 856-779-3838 or samwood@phillynews.com.

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