PAROLE OFFICIAL FACES SEX CHARGE

Cops say ex-assemblyman sought underage liaison

ROBERT GAVIN STAFF WRITER
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

ALBANY -- State Parole Board member and ex-state lawmaker George "Chris" Ortloff tried to arrange the rape of two young girls at a Colonie hotel Monday through their "mother," who turned out to be an undercover cop, authorities said Tuesday.


Ortloff, 61, was "buck naked" after he showed up at the undisclosed hotel with condoms, lubricants, sex toys and a camera -- all to meet two "sisters," ages 11 and 12, federal court papers and people familiar with the case said.


The former Plattsburgh-area Republican assemblyman, an outspoken advocate of tough penalties for sex offenders, spoke on the phone and met with the "mother," unaware she was a State Police investigator, the sources said.


He was arrested Monday afternoon at the hotel, located near Albany International Airport, and taken to the Albany County jail.


Wearing yellow jail garb, the silver-haired former assemblyman sat before Judge Randolph Treece in U.S. District Court Tuesday afternoon, accused of trying to induce an underage victim to have sex. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 10 years and as much as life in prison. A conviction also would involve a fine of $250,000 and at least five years of postrelease supervision.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Spina said Ortloff had been communicating with the undercover cop "almost daily" since June, believing a parent of the "girls" would drop them off at the hotel.


While Spina did not discuss details, court papers showed the undercover cop met with Ortloff in person, and that they communicated by phone and on the Yahoo, Gmail and America Online Web sites.


Ortloff tried to set up a tryst involving "masturbation, oral sex and vaginal intercourse" with the "girls," a federal complaint said.


During a Sept. 10 Web camera chat, Ortloff "discussed meeting with them in order to engage in various sexual acts" and promised to bring lubricant and sex toys for the rendezvous, stated the complaint. The meeting was scheduled for Monday.


Investigators from a State Police unit that battles sex crimes searched Ortloff's car, hotel room and offices in Lake Placid and the Central Avenue state Parole Board office. They arrested him with help from the FBI.


The judge ordered Ortloff back to the county jail. A hearing on his bail status scheduled for today.


Outside court, his attorney, Andrew Safranko, told reporters that he still needed to review the case. He said a possible defense could be that his client did not know the "girls" were underage. He also said an entrapment defense was possible.


When asked to describe Ortloff's state, he said his client was "shocked" at the development.


State Division of Parole spokeswoman Heather Groll issued a statement saying that effective immediately, Ortloff's parole board membership is temporarily relieved. His status is under review, the statement said.


The charges are federal because America Online is located in Virginia.


Ortloff was appointed in 2006 to the 19-member state Parole Board by then-Gov. George Pataki for a six-year term. He served in the Assembly from 1986 to 2006 and was assistant minority leader.


Among other issues he championed, Ortloff pushed for the toughening of Megan's Law, the law that created the state's sex offender registry.


"Our government" Ortloff told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican in January 2006, "must do more to keep dangerous, sexually violent predators away from children and women."


Robert Gavin can be reached at 434-2403 or rgavin@timesunion.com.


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Update: Former assemblyman thwarted by "mother"