Plead Not Guilty

Washington residents Bradley Mittler, left, and Brian Hafer, center, are escorted into a Washington County, N.Y., courtroom Wednesday, Sept. 25, to be arraigned on kidnapping charges. Both men pleaded not guilty and were sent to Washington County Jail in New York. This photo was submitted by The Post-Star newspaper in Glen Falls, N.Y.   Submitted Photo.

Two Washington men have been charged with kidnapping after spending several days with a 14- and a 15-year-old girl one of the men met online.

Bradley R. Mittler, 24, and Brian F. Hafer, 36, were charged in Washington County, N.Y., with felony kidnapping, The Post-Star reported.

Mittler was charged with first-degree kidnapping and second-degree kidnapping, the Glen Falls-based newspaper reported.

Hafer was charged with two counts of second-degree kidnapping.

Mittler faces the first-degree charge because police believe he intended to have sexual contact with one of the girls, according to reports.

The men are due back in court Thursday Oct. 3, however a Washington County, N.Y., assistant district attorney served them with grand jury notices that may pre-empt those court appearances if a grand jury indicts them before then, according to reports.

Washington Police Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes told The Missourian that his department was contacted in August by New York State Police.

He said Mittler and Hafer were living in Washington when they traveled to New York to meet the victims.

“They left here to go up and meet the girls,” Sitzes said. “We provided them with all of the information that we had — including vehicle information.”

He noted that Washington police are familiar with the men. According to court records, in 2012 Mittler pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of negligent burning or exploding. He was given a 60 day probation term.

Sitzes said if there are other victims in this area, they are urged to call Washington police at 636-390-1050.

In July, Hafer, was issued a summons to court for driving without insurance by New Haven police. He was driving a car that was stopped by officers who located suspected meth, according to New Haven police.

Kidnapping

Authorities allege that the suspects met with the teen girls in Whitehall, N.Y., with the intent to drive them back to Missouri.

The Post-Star reported that the girls were located Aug. 30 after Mittler and Hafer left them at an Ohio shopping plaza when the men learned police were looking for them.

One of the girls had been injured by Mittler, who allegedly organized the New York trip after meeting one of the girls through social media, according to reports.

The suspects turned themselves in to police in Monroe, Ohio, where they were in custody until New York State Police extradited them to Washington County.

Mittler is being held without bond. Hafer is being held on a $200,000 bond.

The Post-Star reported that Washington County Assistant District Attorney Brandon Rathbun told the judge the men engaged in human trafficking by taking the girls from Whitehall, N.Y., with plans to head to Missouri. He also stated that the suspects knew the girls were underage.

Meet Online

According to court records, the men and the girls went to great lengths to deceive the parents of the girls, after Mittler pretended to be 17 years old when he began corresponding with the 14-year-old girl online.

The girl’s mother was aware of the online relationship, and asked for proof that he was 17, which resulted in Mittler sending her a fake birth certificate and high school report card under another name, court records allege, The Post-Star reported.

“Brad came up with the idea of coming to see me and staying at a hotel in the area,” the teen, whose name is being withheld, wrote. “Brad told Brian I was 18.”

The Post-Star further reported that the girl met Mittler at a hotel room in Queensbury, N.Y., on several occasions during the last week of August, with Hafer pretending to be a parent of one girl for a ruse to stay at another friend’s house when she was actually at the hotel, according to court records.

They then came up with a plan for Mittler and the girl to go to Missouri, “planning a future together,” court records show.

A 15-year-old friend of the girl became aware of her friend’s plan, and told police she “tried to talk her out of it,” but the younger girl said she could not let her friend go alone with the men.

The older girl, though, sneaked out of her home overnight, and left a note for her guardians telling them she was going to Maine with her friend. She also had her younger friend remove the SIM card from her phone so police couldn’t track it, according to a written statement to police from the younger girl, according to The Post-Star report.

Mittler ended the trip as relatives of the girls started contacting them via social media as they drove through Ohio.

First-degree kidnapping is punishable by up to 25 years to life in New York state prison, while second-degree kidnapping can bring a sentence of up to 25 years.