Former Teacher Pleads Guilty to Production of Child Pornography and Other Charges Following Federal Investigation
Eric Justin Toth Fled Area Upon Discovery of Crimes; Former FBI Top Ten Fugitive was Captured This Year in Nicaragua
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 12, 2013|
WASHINGTON—Eric Justin Toth, 31, a former private school teacher and camp counselor, pled guilty today to three counts of production of child pornography and other felony charges following an investigation that began more than five years ago with the discovery of pornographic images on a school camera that had been in his possession.
The guilty plea was announced by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland; John W. Vaudreuil, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin; Robert L. Pittman, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas; Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John S. Leonardo, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona; John R. Marti, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota; John McCarthy, State’s Attorney for Montgomery, County, Maryland; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD); and J. Thomas Manger, Chief of the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department.
Toth pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In addition to the child pornography charges, he pled guilty to one count each of misuse of a Social Security number and identity theft. The plea agreement, which is contingent upon the court’s approval, calls for Toth to be sentenced to between 22 and 30 years in prison. Following completion of the prison term, the plea agreement calls for Toth to be placed on at least 25 years of supervised release. He also would be required to register as a sex offender for at least 25 years. If he approves the plea, the Honorable Rudolph Contreras is to sentence Toth on March 11, 2014.
The guilty plea resolves charges and potential charges in several jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, Maryland, Wisconsin, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida.
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“Eric Toth is every parent’s worst nightmare: a serial predator who took advantage of his position as a camp counselor and a teacher to sexually exploit children in his care,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “After five years of eluding justice, Toth was captured in Nicaragua, where he was living under an alias, with more than 1,000 child pornography images on his computer. For all his efforts to run away from his crimes, today Toth faces the justice he deserves: up to 30 years in prison.”
“Today, Eric Toth took responsibility for producing pornographic images of children who were entrusted to his care,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “The unfortunate reality is that Toth, an audacious and prolific child predator, is representative of many abusers in our communities who prey upon children in places where we believe they are safe. Together as a society, we must be vigilant observers of a child’s behavior and talk to children about how to come forward when they feel in danger.”
“It is important that this defendant be held accountable,” said State’s Attorney McCarthy. “His reprehensible acts scar children for life. By entering a global plea, the victims of this child predator will not be further traumatized. Today is an important first step towards healing for the victims and their families.”
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The investigation of Toth began in June 2008 with the discovery of images depicting child pornography on a camera at a private school in the District of Columbia, where he had been teaching. School administrators called the police, and security officers immediately escorted Toth from the school campus. Toth left the area soon thereafter, while the law enforcement investigation was continuing. Federal charges were filed against him in 2008 in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Toth, meanwhile, remained at large, traveling to multiple places.
Toth was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in April 2012 and finally apprehended in Nicaragua in April 2013.
The three child pornography charges included in the guilty plea stem from photographs and videos that Toth took of children while working in 2005 as a camp counselor in northwest Wisconsin; as a teacher in 2006 at the private school in the District of Columbia; and at a private home in Maryland in 2007. These photographs and videos were located on a camera and media card found at the school in June 2008 and on a thumb drive found in Toth’s car when it was located at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in August 2008. Additionally, Toth pled guilty to misuse of a Social Security number for using someone else’s identifying information while working in Texas from 2009 until 2012. The identity theft charge stems from Toth’s use, in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere, of yet another person’s identifying information to obtain and travel with a false passport.
As part of the plea agreement, Toth will not face charges for additional images of child pornography that were found on computers that Toth used. In June 2009, after law enforcement learned that Toth had been living and working at homeless shelter in Phoenix, authorities discovered a laptop computer that Toth had been using that contained images depicting child pornography. Toth had already left Phoenix at the time of this discovery. In addition, after Toth’s arrest, law enforcement discovered images and videos depicting child pornography on a laptop computer that Toth used when he lived in Texas and Nicaragua.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office; the Metropolitan Police Department; the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department; and other agencies.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cassidy Kesler Pinegar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Marie Freitas of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, and Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Fenton of the Montgomery County, Maryland State’s Attorney’s Office.
Assistance during the investigation was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices from the Western District of Wisconsin, the Western District of Texas, the Southern District of Florida, the District of Arizona, and the District of Minnesota; the Montgomery County, Maryland State’s Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Embassy Managua Regional Security Office; the Diplomatic Security Service Criminal Investigative Liaison Branch; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Marshals Service’s National Sex Offender Targeting Center; and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children-Sex Offender Tracking Team.
The Nicaraguan National Police (NNP) Commissioner’s Office, the NNP Trafficking in Persons Unit, and the Nicaraguan Immigration Service performed crucial work in securing Toth’s apprehension.
Those assisting from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia include Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julieanne Himelstein, Catherine K. Connelly, David Johnson, and Virginia Cheatham and former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angela Schmidt and Michelle Zamarin. Paralegal Specialist Toni Donato also provided assistance.