Johnston man sentenced to serve 9 years in state prison for child molestation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that a Johnston man was sentenced in Providence County Superior Court to serve nine years at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) after pleading to sexually assaulting a male victim under the age of 14 in 2018.


Anthony Cerbo (age 43) entered a plea of nolo contendere to one count of first-degree child molestation and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree child molestation.


At a hearing on February 11, 2022, before Superior Court Justice Maureen B. Keough, the Court sentenced the defendant to 30 years, with nine years to serve and the balance of the sentence suspended with probation. The Court further issued a no contact order between the defendant and his victim. Additionally, the defendant is required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, must attend sex offender counseling, and is subject to community supervision requirements under state law.


The defendant had been held without bail since his bail hearing in November 2018.


“Sexual assaults against children remain an ongoing, devastating problem in Rhode Island – we have charged over 400 such cases over the last five years alone,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Here, the defendant, with the help of a co-defendant, came up with a scheme to use social digital media to identify a vulnerable child, and once identified, execute that scheme and prey on that child. While nothing can reverse the damage he has caused, it is my hope that the defendant’s conviction and the long sentence imposed by the Court will bring a measure of justice for the victim and his family. I am grateful to the victim for coming forward and demonstrating strength and resiliency throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case.”


Had this case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that during the early morning hours of November 19, 2018, the defendant sexually assaulted a male victim under the age of 14, at his residence in Johnston.


Prior to the assault, the defendant connected with the victim via the online dating app, Grinder. The defendant and victim exchanged messages, during which the victim communicated to the defendant that he was fourteen years old.


The defendant arranged for a co-defendant, Matthew Heuser, to pick up the minor victim and drive him to the defendant’s home in Johnston. Subsequently, Mr. Cerbo sexually assaulted the victim. It is alleged that Mr. Heuser also sexually assaulted the victim at that time.


Mr. Heuser is facing multiple felony charges, including second-degree child molestation and conspiracy to commit first-degree child molestation. The prosecution of Mr. Heuser is pending in Providence County Superior Court.


“Detectives from the Johnston Police Department worked very diligently with the members of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office to ensure that the defendant was brought to justice,” said Johnston Police Chief Joseph P. Razza. “Sexual assaults against minors have a resounding and devastating effect on the victims and their families. We are indebted to the victim for providing their full cooperation and assistance throughout these criminal proceedings.”


Detectives Brian Loffredi and John DeAngelis of the Johnston Police Department and Special Assistant Attorney General Michael S. McCabe and Assistant Attorney General Shannon Signore conducted the investigation and prosecution of the case.