Schenectady County

Police: Girl lured through Internet for sex

A local man was arrested on rape and other charges and a runaway 15-year-old girl was recovered by s

A local man was arrested on rape and other charges and a runaway 15-year-old girl was recovered by sheriff’s deputies Monday with the help of a computer search and a state police bulletin, authorities said.

Anthony R. Watkins, 48, had been communicating with the Connecticut girl for several weeks on the Internet from the Schenectady County Public Library main branch, officials said. When she went missing over the weekend, a search of her computer led authorities to the library.

Authorities also determined the two might go to the library Monday morning. They did, and deputies were ready. Watkins now faces rape and child endangerment charges.

“This was a combination of good police work,” Schenectady County Sheriff Harry Buffardi said Monday evening. “Now the girl is going to be returned to her family tonight.”

Watkins, Buffardi said, is a man with a lengthy criminal history. He has nearly three dozen arrests. He was also sent to prison twice on drug and stolen property convictions, records show. None of the arrests were sex-related, Buffardi said.

But at the time of the arrest on Monday, authorities weren’t sure exactly who he was. Authorities believe Watkins was homeless and used an assumed name to connect with the girl via the library computers.

He is accused also of stealing a car in Schenectady over the weekend, driving it to Connecticut to pick up the girl and then driving her back to Schenectady. They apparently stayed in woods in Rotterdam near Schenectady County Community College. Watkins faces rape charges in Rotterdam.

The case is being treated as a runaway, rather than an abduction, Buffardi said.

Connecticut authorities found the library information and the assumed name in the girl’s home computer.

When confronted at the library, neither Watkins nor the girl was very cooperative, Buffardi said. The girl, however, spoke of a car being ditched near a Target store and a grocery store. Using a remote car starter recovered from the pair, sheriff’s officials drove around Mohawk Commons in Niskayuna, finding the Pontiac.

They had hoped the car would lead to the man’s identity. But it led them to the stolen car report from a student at Schenectady County Community College, Buffardi said.

Watkins finally admitted his true identity, Buffardi said. The girl, with the help of the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Special Victim’s Unit, also finally talked.

Deputies held Watkins on a stolen property possession charge until the rest could be sorted out.

Watkins faces four counts of third-degree rape, felonies, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, charges filed in Rotterdam. He is also expected to face a possession of stolen property charge in Niskayuna.

He also faces further counts in Connecticut. Federal authorities are also contemplating charges related to the use of the Internet and taking the girl across state lines, Buffardi said.

Central to the arrest, Buffardi said, was a New York State Police bulletin, which was read and acted on by Deputy David Leffingwell. Helping at the library were deputies Joseph Puglisi and Marc Giaquinto.

Watkins was arraigned Monday in Rotterdam Town Court and ordered held without bail.

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