NEWBURYPORT – A 42-year-old volunteer firefighter from Maine was arraigned Friday in Newburyport District Court on 20 counts relating to an online undercover Newbury police sting targeting sexual exploitation of children that dates back to January.

Garrett B. Bowden of 6 Goah Way, Liberty, faces a count of using a computer to disseminate child pornography, 18 counts of dissemination of obscene material to a minor on various dates, and a count of dissemination of obscene matter on diverse dates, according to court records.

Newbury police Detective Sgt. Aaron Wojtkowski said in his court filing that his investigation “suggests that Garrett Bowden has an illicit sexual interest in children” and “may be engaging in a similar pattern of conduct while utilizing social media” to victimize more children under age 18.

Bowden, who Wojtkowski said was a volunteer firefighter in Liberty, was arrested in Maine on June 2, arraigned in Newburyport on July 3 and released on $2,500 bail because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. He was ordered not to use the internet and to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under 18 pending a pretrial hearing in Newburyport District Court on Aug. 3.

Wojtkowski, who is an affiliate member of the state Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and a part-time officer with the FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, has been involved in similar arrests in the past year. 

In the information Wojtkowski filed in District Court, he said he was “conducting proactive online undercover investigations into the sexual exploitation and enticement of children” on Jan. 29, along with a task force officer posing online as a 14-year-old.

The two were monitoring the “teen” room on a website that caters to teenagers, where Wojtkowski said he knew online offenders sometimes tried to connect with children.

“I also know from experience that online offenders in the particular chat-room have openly advertised and requested illicit sexual conduct with children,” he wrote.

The officer said he and the undercover task force officer connected with Bowden, and the task force officer exchanged a series of private messages over the next several months. Wojtkowski said Bowden said he was 41 years old, gave his phone number, and provided a Google account that police determined was an account connected to Bowden.

The court filing says Bowden sent messages detailing “specific sex acts he wanted to perform on the” undercover officer as well as “illicit images and videos of himself” that violated the law governing transmission of obscene images to a minor. He also asked the undercover officer to send nude photos of herself, according to court records.

During his investigation, Wojtkowski said he found evidence that suggests Bowden “has been in contact with other minor children” through private messages and “the conduct in those messages is similar in nature to the underlying allegations in this complaint.”

Richard K. Lodge is editor of The Daily News. Follow him on Twitter @RichardLodge_DN. 

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