20 Men, Including a Rockland Priest, Charged in Bedford Rest-Stop Sex Sting

By Terence Corcoran
Journal News
October 30, 2007

BEDFORD - A sting aimed a men who cruise a rest area off Interstate 684 for gay sex resulted in charges against 20 men in the past month, including a Catholic priest and a registered sex offender.

The sting, which also netted a local Rotary Club president and a 72-year-old man, was prompted by a complaint from a man who stopped to use the rest area with his 10-year-old son, said Capt. Robert Meyer, state police commander in Westchester County.

"As soon as we saw that letter, we took immediate action," said Sgt. Joseph Lutz, the Somers barracks commander, who oversaw the operation. He spoke as he visited the southbound rest area just north of Exit 4 yesterday afternoon.

Most of the men were charged with either loitering or trespass violations or both. One was charged with forcible touching, a misdemeanor. Four were charged with exposing themselves and two with public lewdness, all violations. The 20 suspects are due in Bedford Town Court on Thursday.

Among those arrested was the Rev. Gary Mead, a Catholic priest from Millwood assigned to St. Gregory Barbarigo parish in Garnerville. Police said he fondled an undercover officer and was charged with forcible touching.

Mead, 44, was previously assigned to St. Mary's Church in Wappingers Falls and, in the late 1990s, was parochial vicar at Holy Family parish in New Rochelle. A message left yesterday with the Archdiocese of New York was not immediately returned.

Shawn M. Cromwell, 29, of Pleasant Valley, a Level 2 sex offender, was charged with public lewdness, loitering and trespass. He was convicted in 1997 of first-degree sexual abuse in Dutchess County involving a 9-year-old boy.

"Some of the activity we observed was very, very disturbing," Lutz said.

"You can't believe the stuff we see," said Robert Becker, 25, of Brewster, a maintenance worker at the rest stop. "We're always calling the police."

John M. Canzio, 47, of Bedford Hills, president of the Katonah Rotary Club, was charged with exposure, loitering and trespass. Canzio has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

With the exception of Mead, all of those charged are married, police said. Although most of the illegal activity takes place at night, the crimes occur throughout the day, Lutz said.

The undercover operation comes after the issue of men cruising for gay sex made national headlines with allegations against Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after his arrest in June by an undercover officer at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport who said Craig came onto him in a men's room. Craig is seeking to overturn his guilty plea.

State police have filed charges against men at the Bedford rest stop in the past. In April 2006, a 76-year-old Mount Kisco man was charged with public lewdness there and, three years ago, 18 were charged in a sting similar to this one.

Reach Terence Corcoran at or 845-228-2275.


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