Alex Capasso, former chef at a series of high-profile Philadelphia restaurants, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a child-pornography charge in federal court in Camden.

DNJCAPASSO07.Celebrity chef Alex Capasso is expected to plead guilty Tuesday in Camden federal court to child-pornography charges., in 2008. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
DNJCAPASSO07.Celebrity chef Alex Capasso is expected to plead guilty Tuesday in Camden federal court to child-pornography charges., in 2008. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

The resident of Collingswood appeared in U.S. District Court before Chief Judge Jerome Simandle alongside his attorney, Teri Lodge. He pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to engage in sexual exploitation of children and faces 15 to 20 years in prison under the plea agreement. The judge set sentencing for Sept. 20.

"It's a good result," Lodge said of the plea agreement. He originally faced life in prison, Lodge added.

Capasso, 43, gained recognition as a chef at several restaurants including Blackbird Dining Establishment and Crow & the Pitcher, which has since changed its name to Baril. He was arrested in July 2015 after he was caught sending an undercover agent explicit photos of a girl he identified as the 5-year-old niece of his former girlfriend. The Inquirer and Daily News are not identifying the ex-girlfriend because of her relationship to the child.

On Tuesday, Capasso acknowledged distributing five such images. In addition to the prison time he faces, the agreement requires that he pay restitution to his victims, remain under lifetime supervision when he's released, and register as a sex offender. He also faces a potential fine of $250,000.

Capasso entered the courtroom Tuesday in handcuffs and wearing a green jumpsuit. He answered a series of questions from Simandle about the plea agreement and the rights he was waiving by entering the guilty plea. He also said he was "very grateful" to have Lodge as his attorney.

Capasso was originally charged with sexual exploitation of children, production of child pornography, and distribution of child pornography. The latter two charges will be dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

His ex-girlfriend is awaiting sentencing.

Capasso has been held in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia since the time of his arrest and will remain there until the scheduled sentencing, Lodge said.