Warrant: Aurora man charged with grooming had hoped to 'stage' kidnapping with Batavia teen
A 21-year-old Aurora man charged with grooming and sexually abusing a 16-year-old Batavia girl had hoped to "stage a kidnapping" with her help and flee to Georgia, according to a search warrant.
Anthony J. Popela was arrested in early November at his residence on the 3000 block of Derby Court on a felony charge of grooming and misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse, and the plot was never executed, according to police and Kane County court records.
Police obtained a search warrant to do a forensic search of Popela's old cellphone, which authorities say he gave to the girl so they could communicate in secret.
According to an affidavit presented to a judge who signed off on a search warrant, the girl met Popela in summer 2019.
On Oct. 19, she had a friend drive her to Target to meet with Popela. The friend overheard a conversation between the two and told the girl's parents, who called police. According to the search warrant, Popela and the girl planned to "stage a kidnapping" of her in early November and flee to Georgia.
According to the affidavit, Popela also made comments that one of his friends in Georgia had a concealed carry license and would "take care" of the girl's father if he tried to fight back during the staged "kidnapping."
According to the warrant, the girl's friend showed police a screenshot of a Snapchat message Popela sent to her. It read: "We have now developed the beginning of a foolproof plan but some of it depends on u Are you in?"
The girl ran away from home the night of Oct. 19 after police came to her house to talk to her parents. Later, she was found at Popela's house in Aurora and he was arrested in early November.
The next day, the girl's father brought her phone to police. He had looked through the phone and read "sexually explicit text messages" between his daughter and Popela, according to the warrant. The father gave police consent to further search the phone.
On Oct. 21, the girl's mother brought Popela's old phone to police. The girl had thrown it into a nearby yard after she ran away, according to the warrant.
A message left with Popela's defense attorney, Alfredo Acosta, was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Popela is free on bond, due in court Nov. 20. If convicted, he faces a sentence ranging from probation to three years in prison and registration as a sex offender.