New York teacher arrested over child porn allegations

AFP Photo / Odd Andersen
A teacher at the prestigious Bronx High School of Science was arrested on federal child pornography charges on Friday morning. The charges related to producing, receiving and possessing child pornography.

Jon Cruz, 32, the Bronx Science teacher and debate coach is alleged to have engaged in multiple chats via mobile communications over a six month period with minors in different states, according to a criminal complaint. In various chats in which altogether as many as five victims were targeted, Cruz, aware of the age of his victims, implied he was also a teenager and offered to pay the children to take nude photographs of themselves and send them to him.

One 15-year-old victim was encouraged by Cruz to take sexually explicit photographs of himself for $500 and send Cruz the photographs. Cruz then sent the victim $500.

Whenever child pornography charges are brought, it is among the most difficult and disturbing situations law enforcement must face, particularly as it relates to the victims,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, in announcing the arrest.

“What makes this case even more disturbing than the charges themselves is, as alleged, Jon Cruz was involved in child pornography while he was working with children every day through his job as a teacher and debate coach. Now the justice process must take over.”

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Federal officials began investigating Cruz after the parents of the one of victims, living in New Mexico, went to a sheriff’s office to complain that their child had been sent a $500 gift certificate to send explicit images to someone.

According to the criminal complaint, one of the teenagers told agents that Cruz had asked for pictures of his feet and face. Another victim said that Cruz had identified himself as a “nerd” with “a thing for jocks.” The teacher then said he wanted to be a “slave” to one of his victims, according to agents. The teacher also asked one of the victims to introduce him to other boys he could chat with.

The FBI has accused Cruz of exchanging gift cards worth up to $1,600 for X-rated pictures of minors.

Cruz, who was employed for close to a decade at Bronx Science, is charged with one count of production of child pornography, one count of receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. He faces a potential maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on just the count of producing porn alone. He was held on $1 million bail bond.

The school’s principal, Dr. Jean Donahue, sent out a letter to parents breaking the news of the arrest, according to the New York Daily News. The letter said Cruz has “been reassigned from the school at an alternate location where he will not be in contact with students.”

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The case involved FBI agents in New Mexico and New York State.

It takes a special depravity to produce child pornography. This type of insidious behavior must stop. And others who think they can hide in the Deep Web – or are beyond the reach of law enforcement – should think again,” said Diego Rodriguez, FBI Assistant Director in Charge.

Our youth deserve our unwavering commitment to their security, particularly from a coach and teacher at their school.