US child porn suspect captured after 5 years

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 23, 2013 at 9:15 pm •  Published: April 23, 2013
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators say Eric Justin Toth's five-year run as a fugitive began when he was fired from his teaching job at a prestigious private school in Washington after being confronted about images of child pornography taken with a school camera in the man's possession.

It ended over the weekend when Nicaraguan authorities, acting on a tip, found him living in that Central American country — with phony passports, driver's licenses and credit cards, authorities said. The FBI is investigating why Toth was living there and has previously said he may have been advertising as a nanny or tutor while on the lam.

Now, investigators are trying to piece together how he avoided capture even after he was added to the FBI's Most Wanted list, a notorious designation reserved for those considered dangerous criminals and that has featured the likes of Osama bin Laden and Whitey Bulger. Prosecutors are encouraging any other abuse victims to come forward as they proceed with a federal child pornography case against the 31-year-old Toth, who was ordered held without bond during a brief court appearance Tuesday.

"The fact that he is a known child predator and that he's been on the run for five years, we assume that there's potentially other victims in other places that he's been over the past five years," said Valerie Parlave, the head of the FBI's Washington field office.

A federal public defender assigned to Toth didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. Phone listings for possible relatives of Toth either declined to comment or did not return phone messages.

The arrest on Saturday, in a city near Nicaragua's border with Honduras, ended a frustrating international manhunt for the computer-savvy third-grade teacher and former camp counselor.

There were tantalizing clues along the way — a fake suicide note in Minnesota, an apparent sighting at a shelter in Arizona, a tip that led agents on an extensive search of South America. Yet Toth continued to elude authorities, even as pictures of his bespectacled and sometimes bearded face were featured on news programs, billboards around the country and the FBI's list.

The big break came from a tip last week after a female tourist who encountered Toth in a social setting recognized him and contacted authorities, said FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire.

Toth first arrived in Nicaragua in October and appeared to have spent at least part of his time there creating false identities and ID documents, police said. When his house was raided, police found passports, driver's licenses and credit cards from three banks, under different names, suggesting he was preparing new false identities to use, said national Police Chief Aminta Granera. Toth was living under an assumed name, authorities said, and the FBI used records of a recent purchase to pinpoint his whereabouts.

Federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal complaint Tuesday charging Toth with possessing and producing child pornography, charges that together carry a maximum 50-year prison sentence. Toth wore a blue jail jumpsuit, his hair considerably longer than in the photographs the FBI had made public, and he spoke softly in response to a judge's perfunctory questions.

Prosecutors revealed no new details of their case in court. But according to the complaint, multiple images of child pornography — including one video in which Toth allegedly appeared alongside an undressed young boy — were located in June 2008 on a media card found inside his classroom at Beauvoir, a private elementary school on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral.

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