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Ottawa County couple accused of sex crimes to stand trial

Associated Press • Jun 21, 2017 at 8:07 PM

HUDSONVILLE — A Hudsonville-area couple has been ordered to stand trial on allegations they tried to entice their daughter's teen friends for sex.

A judge ordered Anuj Chopra and Leslie Chopra, both 42, bound over for trial in Ottawa County Circuit Court after their probable-cause hearings regarding various sex crimes concluded Tuesday.

Anuj Chopra is charged with human trafficking after a witness testimony alleged he offered to pay two 16-year-old boys $1,000 in December 2016 if he could film them having sex with each other.

Leslie Chopra is accused of sending sexual messages and a selfie in lingerie to one of the boys over Snapchat, a social media app that erases messages seconds after being viewed. She's charged with distributing sexually explicit materials to minors and using a computer to commit a crime.

Deputy Mike Petroelje, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office liaison at Hudsonville High School, testified the teen who was sent the snaps used his mother's cellphone to take pictures of Leslie Chopra's photos before they were deleted, as advised by Petroelje. Assistant Ottawa County Prosecutor Jennifer Kuiper-Weise said snaps included sex acts she allegedly wanted to perform with the boy.

Defense attorney Damian Nunzio said the charges should be dismissed and that prosecutors didn't show that the snaps would be harmful to a minor. He said police urged continued online talk to gather evidence.

The attorney also said Anuj Chopra's proposition wasn't meant to be taken seriously.

"It was just banter, it was just joking," Nunzio said. "It is not human trafficking under the statute. This is not a 20-year felony."

Proelje said none of the boys he interviewed felt the proposition was a joke.

Petroelje discovered the allegations after the Chopras were suspects in the circulation of nude photographs of a girl at the high school nine months ago. Petroelje said he began interviewing the teen whom Leslie Chopra sent snaps after the mother of the girl whose nude photos were distributed alerted the deputy to potentially concerning behavior between the Chopras and the boy.

Nunzio said parents were already suspicious of the couple because of the photo investigation.

"This was nothing more than mob mentality at Hudsonville High School," he said.

The Chopras haven't been charged in the female student's photos.

The Chopras are scheduled to appear in court July 3.

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