The now-former Stow police chief is being charged with enticing a child under 16, according to a criminal complaint filed in Leominster District Court this week.
Ralph “Rusty” Marino, 63, of Lancaster, is scheduled to be arraigned on May 22, the document says.
Marino placed himself on leave — and was relieved of his duties — on Saturday after meeting with state police. A video posted on YouTube by a channel called “Predator Poachers Massachusetts” appears to show Marino attempting to meet with a teenager. He is instead confronted by someone who calls himself an activist and says he attempts to catch predators by posing as a minor online.
Marino resigned on Wednesday, and Stow selectmen accepted it that day, a statement from the board says; he named Sgt. Darren Traen as acting chief. After being interviewed by state police last Saturday, Marino turned in his badge, service weapon, vehicle, and keys. The town has also secured his department computer.
“The nature of the allegations is deeply disturbing to many of us, most likely everyone, but in particular our police department,” part of the statement says. “Our community is left with many unanswered questions.”
The complaint alleges that last Friday Leominster police viewed the video of the confrontation and were able to obtain a license plate number when the man being confronted drives away. After discovering the vehicle was registered to the Stow Police Department, they found the man to be Marino after searching online and seeing pictures of him. Leominster police then notified state police and asked for assistance.
State police met with the person who confronted Marino in the video Saturday morning.
“The poster indicated that he had been communicating with a man using an on-line application commonly used by individuals to engage in conversation that often becomes sexual in nature and has led to in-person meetings,” the complaint says.
Police were able to see the chat messages allegedly between the poster and Marino, which began on Saturday, April 11.
“Early in the conversation one person identifies as being a 14 year old male, the other an older male,” the complaint says. “The conversation was sexually explicit and includes language from the older man indicating that he wished to engage in sexual acts with the 14 year old boy.”
The messages went on for a few days, and the two agreed to meet in person on Friday, April 17.
State police met with Marino last Saturday around noon at the police department. He allegedly admitted to having conversations with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old boy.
He also allegedly admitted to visiting Leominster, using his department vehicle, to meet up with the teen, and said he was the person in the video. Marino then turned over two cell phones. He said he had deleted all the social media apps, text messages, and call logs off both of them, according to the complaint.
In their statement, members of the Board of Selectmen said they don’t believe anyone else in the department knew of, or helped, Marino take part in the alleged illegal activities.
“Though the events of this weekend are deeply troubling to all of us, there is no reason for residents to believe that the high quality of public safety services in Stow has changed at all,” the statement says. “The men and women of the PD will continue to support us through this time, because that’s their job. We should support them through this time as well, because they’ve earned our support.”
In a statement on their Facebook page Monday, Stow police said the department is “deeply disturbed, shocked and disgusted” by Marino’s alleged actions.
“We fully understand that these alleged actions, if true, may serve to undermine the trust that the Stow Police Department has worked hard to create within the Stow community,” part of the statement says. “These alleged actions are outrageous in any civilized society but amplified in a small community such as Stow.”