A New Jersey firefighter was reportedly caught in the act trying to meet what he thought was a teenage boy for sex, but was hit with an undercover sting that sparked an investigation.
Henry Meola was arrested Friday morning at his home in Nutley, police said. A 33-year-old volunteer firefighter in the town has been charged with fraud and attempted child endangerment.
A YouTube channel called OBL Nation, which says its mission is to expose child abusers, was the cause of a recorded meeting on December 6 in which they said Meola was suspected of having sex with an underage boy.
“Henry, the fire chief you saw in the video, sent a message to one of my fraudsters who was pretending to be a 14-year-old boy on a dating site,” said Ramy, a member of the group. “At first he was careful, watching what he said. And as the conversation unfolded, he felt comfortable getting a little bit more sexual.”
Ramy said one of their viewers brought the video the group recorded to the Nutley Police Department. He said he then turned over the conversations and text messages Meola had to detectives — the same text messages he allegedly met with the fire chief during the video.
In the video, Meola admitted that she had been texting with the alleged minor about their attraction.
“I don’t like facial hair,” Meola said on camera.
He also admitted to asking some questions about sexuality, admitting it “felt weird” through text. He can be seen nodding when asked if he was Nutley’s fire chief.
The Hudson County Prosecutors office said investigators found Meola arranged a meeting with someone he thought was a minor for sex in North Bergen. When asked on video what her intentions were with the 14-year-old boy, she said “I was hoping he would kiss me.”
Neighbors in the town told NBC New York they were saddened and shocked by the news. Meola’s LinkedIn page indicated that he has been with the Nutley Fire Department for 14 years.
He was still in custody as of Friday night, and is scheduled to appear in court at 1 pm Saturday. Meola’s attorney information was not immediately available. No family members answered the door at his home on Friday.