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January 17, 2018

Former Philly chef gets 20 years in prison for conspiracy to sexually exploit children

Local restaurateur Alex Capasso was arrested in an online sting in 2015

Courts Sentencing
Chef Alex Capasso Source/crowandthepitcher.com

Restaurateur Alex Capasso, seen in the kitchen at Crow & the Pitcher in Center City.

A former chef at popular restaurants in Philadelphia and South Jersey will spend the next 20 years in jail after conspiring with his then-girlfriend to sexually exploit children, U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey announced Wednesday.

Alex Capasso, 44, pleaded guilty in 2016 after pleading guilty to producing child pornography with 36-year-old Janine Kelley of Audubon.

An accomplished restaurateur, Capasso was trained at the former Brasserie Perrier and emerged as a chef in New Jersey with spots including Max's and Misto.

He gained widespread recognition with the success of Blackbird Dining Establishment in Collingswood, later working at Rittenhouse Square's former Pitcher & the Crow. The French restaurant in Center City has since rebranded as Baril.

During Capasso's relationship with Kelley, prosecutors said he took or allowed Kelley to take recorded images of him engaging in sexually explicit conduct with children. He also recorded images of Kelley engaging in sex acts with two children.

Capasso was arrested in July 2015 after allegedly telling an undercover police officer that he repeatedly engaged in sexual activities with a five-year-old girl. The chef then exchanged explicit photos with the officer and advanced their communication from an online bulletin to a cell phone dialogue.

Detectives later alleged they found non-sexual photos of the same five-year-old child on Capasso's phone.

Held in federal custody since his arrest, Capasso once sought bail or home release to stay with his parents in Collingswood pending a trial.

A federal magistrate decided against either option after hearing from the victim's mother, who referred to Capasso as a "horrible, violent, soulless person."

Kelley, who has also pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy, is scheduled to be sentenced later this week.