Nicaragua nabs US most-wanted child porn suspect

AP, MANAGUA

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - Page 7

Nicaraguan police in have detained a former US school teacher who was on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted fugitives as a suspect in a child pornography investigation, authorities confirmed on Monday.

Eric Justin Toth was detained on Saturday in Esteli, a city near Nicaragua’s border with Honduras, and will be immediately deported to the US, Nicaraguan National Police chief Aminta Granera said.

“Toth will be deported immediately because he was in our country illegally,” Granera said at a news conference in Managua, the country’s capital.

She said Toth entered Nicaragua with a false passport and had a fake driver’s license and credit cards.

Toth was being handed over to FBI agents present at the news conference and they planned to take him to the US in a special plane, Granera said.

A thin and nervous-looking Toth dressed in cream-colored shirt and pants was briefly presented to journalists and photographers who took his picture, but he was not allowed to talk and was quickly taken away.

Granera said Toth first entered Nicaragua on Oct. 24 last year, and left on Jan. 27 this year. He returned on Feb. 12, which is when Nicaraguan police began keeping a close eye on him, she said.

“He was captured in a house in the Panama Soberana neighborhood in Esteli, even though he resisted,” Granera said.

Toth taught third grade at Beauvoir, a private elementary school on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral. He was escorted off campus in June 2008 after another teacher reported finding sexually explicit photographs on a school camera in Toth’s possession. He had not been seen since he lost his job.

In a statement, the school commended the work of US authorities.

“We commend the work of the Office of the US Attorney and the FBI for their ongoing efforts to apprehend Mr Toth. They have been tenacious and resolute in their quest to bring this case to justice,” it said.

Toth was added to the FBI’s most-wanted list in April last year for allegedly possessing and producing child pornography, giving him notoriety normally reserved for people sought in connection with violent crimes or terrorism.

Osama bin Laden and purported Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger have both been featured on that list, but the FBI said it put Toth on because there were no reliable clues as to his whereabouts and because his Internet skills and alleged penchant for grooming children made him especially dangerous.

Authorities found Toth’s car at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport in August 2008 with a note suggesting he had committed suicide in a nearby lake. However, no body was ever found.

The FBI, which had been offering a US$100,000 reward for information leading to Toth’s arrest, said he was believed to have traveled to Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. It said Toth is originally from Hammond, Indiana, and is a graduate of Purdue University.