NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City police officer was charged on Thursday with conspiring to kidnap, torture, cook and eat women whose names he listed in his computer.
In a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court, Gilberto Valle III, 28, of Forest Hills, Queens, was charged with conspiring to cross state lines to kidnap the women and with illegally accessing a federal database.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Investigators uncovered a file on Valle’s computer containing the names and pictures of at least 100 women, and the addresses and physical descriptions of some of them, according to the complaint. It said he had undertaken surveillance of some of the women at their places of employment and their homes.
Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman, in denying Valle bail at a hearing on Thursday evening, said: “the allegations in the complaint are profoundly disturbing. I have never seen allegations similar to this in 16 years on the bench.”
Valle’s court-appointed attorney, Julia Gatto, had vigorously argued to the judge that her client, a 6-1/2 year NYPD veteran who appeared before the judge in a red T-shirt and jeans, was all talk and deserved to be released on bail.
“The best this complaint alleges is talk, just idle talk,” Gatto said. “There is no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality, your honor.”
In an excerpt of a July online conversation with an unnamed co-conspirator, Valle is quoted in the complaint as saying:
“I can just show up at her home unannounced. It will not alert her, and I can knock her out, wait until dark and kidnap her right out of her home.”
“I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus ... cook her over a low heat, keep her alive as long as possible,” he said. The woman in question is identified only as “Victim 1.”
A Manhattan federal prosecutor, Hadassa Waxman, told the judge on Thursday that Valle was as “close as he could possibly come,” short of “kidnapping a woman, drugging her, cooking her and actually eating her.”
Federal prosecutors, in announcing the charges, said Valle had created a document called “Abducting and Cooking: A Blueprint.” Valle also told an unnamed co-conspirator he would kidnap another woman for $5,000, they said.
“This case is all the more disturbing when you consider Valle’s position as a New York City police officer and his sworn duty to serve and protect,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Valle, who an official said had no prior criminal record, was not charged with carrying out any of his suspected plans.
A law enforcement official involved in the investigation characterized Valle’s actions as an online “fantasy game.”
“He was titillated by it,” said the official, who is not authorized to discuss the case publicly. “It looks like he was having these fantasy conversations with people he’s talking to in foreign countries.”
Valle’s attorney, Gatto, agreed. “This was a fantasy, a sexually deviant world where people talk about unreal things,” she said.
Valle’s estranged wife contacted the FBI after discovering pornography on his computer, according to the law enforcement official, who said the couple is separated. Valle was arrested Wednesday by the FBI. He is due back in court on November7.
A spokesman for the Police Department could not be reached for comment.
Additional Reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Vicki Allen and Todd Eastham