ALBANY - A state Parole Board member who represented much of the North Country in the state Assembly for 20 years appeared in federal court in Albany Tuesday afternoon on a federal charge that he used the Internet to solicit sex with minors.
Chris Ortloff, 61, was arrested in a state police sting at a motel in suburban Albany, said Thomas Spina, an assistant U.S. attorney. Spina said Ortloff repeatedly e-mailed what he believed to be 11- and 12-year-old sisters since June and tried to arrange a meeting in suburban Albany. The Albany Times Union reported that the motel was in Colonie, near Albany International Airport. He is alleged to have had child pornography and "sex paraphernalia" in his possession when he was arrested, the New York Post reported.
'This was an undercover operation. There were no real minors,' Spina said.
Ortloff appeared before U.S. Magistrate Randy Treece of New York's northern district. Wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit and handcuffs in court, he heard the criminal complaint against him but didn't enter a plea.
He declined to comment as he left court. His lawyer, Andrew Safranco, said Ortloff presented no danger to the community and should be freed on bail.
Ortloff was returned to Albany County Jail and scheduled to return to court tomorrow for a bail hearing.
Spina asked the judge to postpone the bail hearing until Wednesday so investigators could review any evidence found in searches at Ortloff's home in Plattsburgh, his parole office, his office at the Coldwell Banker real estate office in Lake Placid where he works, his car and the motel where he was arrested.
Ortloff has been suspended from his duties on the Parole Board pending further investigation.
"The matter is presently under investigation," Heather Groll, public affairs director for the Parole Board, told the Enterprise in a prepared statement. "Effective immediately, Commissioner Ortloff has been temporarily relieved of his parole board duties. His status as a parole board member is currently under review."
A Republican from Plattsburgh, Ortloff represented the North Country's 110th Assembly District from 1986 until 2006, when then-Gov. George Pataki appointed him to a six-year term on the parole board. The board's members, who decide whether state prisoners are released on parole, are paid $101,600 a year for the part-time job.
The district, renamed the 114th, is now represented by Janet Duprey of Peru, who planned to challenge Ortloff in the Republican primary in 2006. Facing her and two Democratic challengers, Ortloff decided not to run again and took the Parole Board job.
Ortloff was well known in local politics, due to his 20 years in the state Assembly representing much of this area. Some of his former friends reacted with shock and disbelief when they heard the news.
"I feel very badly for his wife and his sons, and all of his family," said state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury. "We'll know whether this is all true as we go forward, but this is unbelivable, if it is true, that he would engage in activity like that."
Little was first elected to the Assembly, with Ortloff's support, in 1995. She said she didn't know him before that and afterward knew him "just through the Legislature, through political events." She also ran against him in 2002 for the Senate seat vacated by longtime Sen. Ron Stafford. Ortloff backed out of that race.
Joyce Morency, supervisor of the town of St. Armand and until recently the longtime chair of the Essex County Republican Committee, said, "I feel very sad, and I can't say anything more than that because I don't know much. I heard it on the news this morning, and my heart skipped a beat. He's done so much for the North Country."
Peter Crowley contributed to this report.