NEW YORK – It's a ghoulish tale to rival Hannibal Lecter: A police officer using a law enforcement database creates a list of scores of women he plots to abduct, kill and -- in ways he describes in sickening detail -- eat their body parts.
The federal charges against Gilberto Valle are real. But was his alleged appetite for cannibalism more than fantasy?
Federal prosecutors told a judge on Thursday that even though no one was harmed, the answer is definitely yes.
With one potential victim, Valle "took active and affirmative steps" that brought him to the brink of "kidnapping a woman, cooking her and actually eating her," Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman said in arguing successfully to deny the officer bail.
Valle's attorney countered that her client only indulged in deviant fantasies played out in fetish chat rooms and elsewhere on the Internet.
"Nothing has happened," said the lawyer, Julia Gatto. "We may be offended. We may be alarmed. But it's just talk, your honor."
The shocking allegations against Valle -- a six-year New York Police Department veteran, college graduate and father of an infant child -- were revealed Thursday in a criminal complaint charging him with kidnapping conspiracy and unauthorized use of the database.
Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman agreed on Thursday that Gilberto Valle should be jailed without bail on charges he called "unspeakable" and "profoundly disturbing."
Authorities say the investigation began when Valle's estranged wife tipped authorities off to his chilling online activity.
A search of Valle's computer found he had created records of at least 100 women with their names, addresses and photos, the complaint says, including two identified as Victim 1 and Victim 2.
One document found on his computer was titled "Abducting and Cooking (Victim 1): A Blueprint," according to the criminal complaint. The file also had the woman's birth date and other personal information and a list of "materials needed" -- a car, chloroform and rope.
"I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus ... cook her over low heat, keep her alive as long as possible," Valle allegedly wrote in one exchange in July, the complaint says.
In other online conversations, investigators said, Valle talked about the mechanics of fitting the woman's body into an oven (her legs would have to be bent), said he could make chloroform at home to knock a woman out and discussed how "tasty" one woman looked.
"Her days are numbered," he wrote, according to the complaint.
The woman told the FBI she knew Valle and met him for lunch in July, but that's as far as it went.
The complaint alleges that in February, Valle negotiated to kidnap another woman -- Victim 2 -- for someone else, writing, "$5,000 and she's all yours."
He told the buyer he was aspiring to be a professional kidnapper, authorities said.
"I think I would rather not get involved in the rape," according to the complaint. "You paid for her. She is all yours, and I don't want to be tempted the next time I abduct a girl."
It says he added: "I will really get off on knocking her out, tying up her hands and bare feet and gagging her. Then she will be stuffed into a large piece of luggage and wheeled out to my van."
Cellphone data revealed that Valle made calls on the block where the woman lives, the complaint says. An FBI agent interviewed the woman, who told them that she didn't know him well and he was never in her home.