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Two linked to "cannibal cop" case charged in NYC with kidnap plot

Elizabeth Valle (R), mother of New York City police officer Gilberto Valle dubbed by local media as the "cannibal cop", exits the Manhattan
Elizabeth Valle (R), mother of New York City police officer Gilberto Valle dubbed by local media as the "cannibal cop", exits the Manhattan

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former New York City high school librarian and a Massachusetts hospital police official were charged on Monday with conspiring to kidnap, torture and kill women and children, in a case that grew out of the investigation of so-called New York ‘cannibal cop' Gilberto Valle, authorities said.

The case against Robert Christopher Asch, 60, of Manhattan and Richard Meltz, 65, of Nashua, New Hampshire, was outlined in a 23-page criminal complaint that accused them of conspiring over the past two years to carry out the plots against potential victims, including infants.

Manhattan Attorney Preet Bharara called the accusations against the pair a "bone-chilling … chronicle of sadism and depravity that includes … very real steps to carry out … plans to kidnap, torture, rape, and kill the women and children they targeted," in a statement issued on Monday.

The case began after authorities learned last fall that a 22-year old New Jersey mechanic, Michael Van Hise, was allegedly sending messages online soliciting the kidnapping, rape and murder of his wife and step-daughter, as well as his sister-in-law and her children.

Van Hise came to the attention of authorities when they discovered email exchanges between him and former New York City police officer Gilberto Valle, convicted in March of a plot to kidnap and cannibalize local women.

Both men said at the time through their attorneys that they were engaged in online violent sexual fantasy role play and that they never intended to commit real crimes.

When Valle was arrested last fall, Van Hise agreed to cooperate with federal investigators probing violent sexual role play websites, his attorney Alice Fontier said earlier this year.

Among those Van Hise allegedly corresponded with online were Asch and Meltz, according to the complaint unsealed Monday.

Van Hise then introduced Asch, and later Meltz, to undercover FBI agents, including one who posed as a fellow kidnap plotter, and another who posed as a female kidnap target.

Asch allegedly provided an undercover agent with a taser gun, a ski mask, hypodermic needles, documents describing a device called a ‘leg-spreader' and another called a ‘dental retractor' and the sleep agent doxepin hydrochloride, FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said.

Asch and Meltz, a chief of police for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts, were due to appear in federal court in lower Manhattan late on Monday afternoon.

Meltz "maintains his innocence,'' attorney Peter Brill said, declining further comment. Lori Cohen, an attorney for Asch, declined to comment.

In court documents, prosecutors charged that an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation began email conversations with Asch last year, discussing plots to kidnap and torture of unnamed women and children.

The FBI agent then met with Asch at least five times to discuss the plots, which were recorded, according to the documents.

The criminal complaint includes excerpts of email exchanges involving Asch and Meltz in which they appeared to discuss carrying out the crimes.

Each man is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

(Reporting By Chris Francescani. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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