An Alaska State Trooper is charged with attempted sexual abuse of a minor after allegedly trying to meet a 16-year-old girl at an Anchorage hotel Sunday, according to a written statement from the Department of Public Safety.
Soldotna-based Trooper Vance Peronto, 57, first met the girl when he was on duty and stopped her for driving with her headlights off April 8 on the Kenai Spur Highway, according to the charging documents. The felony charges say Peronto did not cite her, but he later contacted her on social media, starting an online relationship marked by racy, back-and-forth messages.
The girl’s father discovered the relationship, notified the authorities on Thursday, and Peronto, a 16-year veteran of the troopers, was arrested in an apparent sting operation on Sunday.
According to the charging document, this is what investigators say happened:
After his first contact with the girl on Facebook, Peronto’s messages “quickly became flirtatious,” the charges say. When the girl told Peronto her age, he allegedly replied, “WOOOW Gulp.” Peronto gave the girl his cellphone number and offered to be her “personal trooper.”
Over the next several days, the messages escalated to include sexually explicit comments, with Peronto allegedly asking for videos and photos. The girl sent several, including some in which she appeared to be nude or partially nude. In several separate messages, Peronto allegedly gave the girl his home address and told her she could come see him there. He also mentioned wanting to perform sex acts with her.
In a subsequent message, Peronto apparently tried to end their relationship, which he acknowledged was veering toward an in-person sexual encounter.
“I’m sorry … I’ve got to put a stop to this,” he allegedly wrote. “You’re not worth my career or 10-20 years in jail. Hell no.”
But it didn’t end there. Peronto messaged about wanting to watch a movie together.
The girl’s father discovered the messages and contacted troopers on Thursday, providing investigators with copies of the communication.
Peronto came to Anchorage for a training event, and the girl messaged him that she, too, was in Anchorage. She told him that she was staying at a hotel with her father but had her own room. Peronto told the girl he was going to buy her some panties, and they made plans to meet at the hotel room.
The charges do not say if the girl was working with investigators or if they had access to her social media account, but the investigators were at least aware of the plans.
When Peronto arrived at the hotel — in his patrol vehicle — and went to the room he believed the girl to be in, he was met by other troopers and officers with the Anchorage Police Department.
They arrested Peronto, and took him to jail, where he made a court appearance Monday afternoon. A judge set Peronto’s bail at $10,000 cash and included a condition that, if he bails out, Peronto is prohibited from using social media.
Col. Hans Brinke, director of the Alaska State Troopers, addressed Peronto’s arrest in a written statement Monday.
“This case and investigation have been handled in the same manner as any other, and we are informing the public of these developments today to maintain transparency,” Brinke said. “AST and the Department of Public Safety are committed to fulfilling our mission to protect the public, and staying accountable to the people of Alaska.”