PARADISE, Calif. (KTXL) — The vice mayor of Paradise, the Butte County town that was devastated by the 2018 Camp Fire, turned himself in to the sheriff’s office Tuesday after he was accused of sending sexually explicit text messages and photographs to an officer posing as a teenage girl.
On Feb. 24, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office says they were contacted by someone alleging Paradise Vice Mayor Michael Zuccolillo had been talking to who he believed was a 16-year-old girl from China who was visiting Sacramento at the time.
In their discussions, the person claimed 41-year-old Zuccolillo allegedly sent the purported teenager sexually explicit text messages and photographs of his genitals, according to the sheriff’s office. He also told the girl he would go to Sacramento to have sex with her and her adult sister.
The sheriff’s office says the person who made the allegations apparently had a “bad business deal” with the vice mayor.
“The subject told sheriff’s detectives he obtained the evidence by targeting Zuccolillo in what is best described as a self-initiated ‘to catch a predator’ style operation,” the sheriff’s office wrote in their press release. “The subject informed detectives he took on the persona of a 16-year-old female and targeted Zuccolillo due to animosity he had for Zuccolillo resulting from a bad business deal.”
After investigators looked into the phone calls between the Zuccolillo, the sheriff’s office says an undercover officer contacted the vice mayor, using the persona of the teenage girl from China. In response, Zuccolillo sent more sexually explicit texts and photographs.
Search warrants gave investigators access to Zuccolillo’s home, vehicles and electronic devices and the Butte County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against him based on the evidence collected in the searches.
On Tuesday, facing charges of arranging a meeting with a minor for the purpose of engaging in lewd or lascivious behavior, sending harmful material to a minor and communicating with a minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct, Zuccolillo turned himself in.
He has posted bail of $135,000 and his arraignment has been set for July 10.
On the website for the town of Paradise, Zuccolillo is described as a husband and father of three children. His one-year term as vice mayor is meant to end on Dec. 8.