Former Cold Spring Trustee Arrested by FBI

Charged with attempted child enticement

By Chip Rowe

Charles E. “Chuck” Hustis III, a former two-term Village of Cold Spring trustee and recent mayoral candidate, was arrested by the FBI on Monday (Dec. 16) and charged with attempted enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity, according to federal officials.

Chuck Hustis

Hustis, 36, appeared before a federal judge in White Plains on Monday on the charge, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. He was represented at the initial court appearance by a federal public defender and released to home confinement on a $150,000 bond, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The 2002 Haldane graduate, who could not immediately be reached for comment, served on the Village Board from 2010 to 2014 and also ran unsuccessfully for the Haldane school board in 2015. He challenged incumbent Mayor Dave Merandy earlier this year.

According to the complaint filed with the court, a 16-year-old male teenager notified the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office that Hustis on Dec. 8 and 9 sent him sexually explicit photos over Facebook Messenger and solicited him to meet for sex.

The teen told police that Hustis had been one of his substitute teachers. Hustis was certified by the state as a teaching assistant from February 2012 to January 2015, and in a statement issued Dec. 17, the Haldane school district said he had worked as a substitute teacher as recently as 2016.

“Please be assured that we will actively monitor” students’ reactions, Superintendent Philip Benante said in a letter to faculty and parents. “Out of an abundance of caution and respect for the emotional safety of our students and families who may be directly impacted by this matter, I am seeking your assistance in encouraging our children not to engage in any speculation about who may have been involved.”

In a Facebook exchange quoted in the complaint, Hustis initiated an explicit conversation with the teen, asking him how his school year was going and stating that he (Hustis) was “getting hit on by sugar daddies all the time” at the Foodtown grocery store in Cold Spring, where he is a manager. He also told the teen that he was “cute,” called him “sexy boy” and said that he had watched him playing sports at school, according to the complaint.

Hustis allegedly asked the teen how old he was, to which he replied, “16.” He also told the teen that there were job openings at Foodtown, “but since you are 16 you can’t legally work grocery till you are 18,” according to the complaint.

Read the complaint (graphic language)

On Dec. 12, an FBI agent took over the Facebook account to continue the communications while posing as the teenager, according to the complaint. Hustis allegedly sent photos of his penis to the teen and later to the special agent, as well as photos of his face, including one that also had been posted on his Facebook campaign page during his run for mayor.

A screen shot of the Facebook page for Hustis’ mayoral campaign that the FBI used to confirm his identity

In addition, Hustis solicited photos from the agent (posing as the teen) and at one point wrote, “When you are off from school, I’ll invite you to my place for fun,” the complaint said. It also alleged Hustis said he wanted to meet at his apartment because “it’s illegal to have sex with a minor” and “I want to play this by the letter of the law to protect both of us.” (The legal age of consent for sex in New York State is 17.)

The agent, posing as the teen, agreed to meet Hustis in the Foodtown parking lot at 10 a.m. on Monday, which the agent told Hustis was during the teen’s “free period” from school, and walk from there to Hustis’ apartment for sex. Agents said they arrested Hustis in the parking lot when he arrived for the meeting.

The FBI said anyone with relevant information should contact the agency at 800-225-5324.

7 thoughts on “Former Cold Spring Trustee Arrested by FBI

  1. I am dismayed that a paper of so much concern for civility and community enlightenment could print that long detailed front-page article about Chuck Hustis. So he was arrested; that would be enough. There has been no trial, no conviction, no prison sentence. It was cruel to both parties, but apparently you needed the attention. I prefer not to be a member of your organization.

  2. I was recently at a gathering where the subject of your Page 1 article on the arrest of Chuck Hustis III came up for discus-sion. We were also uniformly dismayed, disgusted and very disappointed as there was far more graphic detail than was necessary, constructive or needed.

  3. The National Enquirer has apparently established a local edition in the Highlands. Who knew? You tarred and feathered the accused.

    Shame on you and whomever on your advisory board supports your reckless behavior. Professional? Ha! Good taste? Ha! Journalistic integrity? I think not.

    There is no doubt in my mind the Trump re-election efforts consider you in their pocket for 2020.

  4. This comment is not being written to decide whether Hustis is guilty or innocent of the deeds that he has allegedly committed. That is the job of the court of law. I am simply wondering if any of the people who wrote letters that rallied against The Current’s reporting of those deeds are parents of a teenager. I would suspect not.

  5. Because of Chuck Hustis’ high visibility in both his former position at Foodtown and his civic activity in the Village of Cold Spring, this was a newsworthy article, fairly and dispassionately reported, despite protests otherwise. To think there might be sexual predators living and working alongside us is disconcerting. For those readers who expressed dismay after clicking the link to read the complaint despite the warning that it contained graphic language, their response perhaps reflects a naivete about how sexual predators go about their business.

    As reported in the FBI agent’s affidavit, the alleged Facebook exchange between Hustis and the 16-year-old boy reads like a textbook case of how a youngster can be groomed through flattery, job offers and “titillating” language. As a community, we should be collectively grateful to the victim, who had the courage to bring this conversation to the attention of law enforcement and give permission for the investigation to continue. That’s a weighty responsibility at 16.

    Hustis will have his entitled day in court and, if found guilty, will hopefully get the help he needs. But let’s not live in the dark and turn a blind eye because these things are distasteful.

    • The Current has done nothing more than turn out a clear, concise and factual piece of reporting.

      What is disconcerting to me is the correspondent who appears to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome and brought our President into this matter.

  6. I applaud The Current’s handling of the Chuck Hustis case. A local paper fulfills its mandate to public safety information by reporting on criminal activity — even alleged murders (e.g., the kayak case) — often before suspects have gone to trial or are convicted.

    So far as I know from reading the complaint, neither the student nor the FBI agent who soon took over the Facebook account ever declined the advances. What if the first reply had been “Step off,” and Hustis had immediately ceased his inquiries? Would we be calling him a predator? (In my book, an FBI agent posing as an interested participant is a clear case of entrapment.)

    Chuck Hustis may be guilty of egregiously bad judgment — allegedly proposing illegal activity with a total stranger who might not even share his sexual orientation, a willingness to flout the law, etc. It would be a damn shame if he does 10 years for what appears to be a boneheaded move, since in many other spheres of activity he has acquitted himself as an extraordinarily decent guy.