D.C. school teacher who landed on FBI’s Most Wanted list pleads to child pornography

Eric Justin Toth, the elite D.C. private school teacher who replaced Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, has pleaded guilty to production of child pornography following an investigation that began more than five years ago and ended with his arrest in April in Nicaragua.

Toth pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and is expected to be sentenced between 22 and 30 years in prison.

“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 Ronald Machen Jr.

Eric Toth

Eric Toth

Prosecutors say Toth’s crimes spanned years and multiple states and involved secret videos and hidden cameras

He took photographs and videos of a sleeping camper while working as a counselor at a Wisconsin summer camp in 2005 and, two years later, filmed himself sexually molesting a prepubescent boy, prosecutors say. He also installed hidden cameras inside a bathroom at the Beauvoir School, a private elementary school where he worked as a third-grade teacher. The recordings captured 15 children under the age of 10.

The chase for Toth began in June 2008, shortly after officials at the Washington National Cathedral’s Beauvoir elementary school found photographs showing “inappropriate touching” of young children on the camera, and Washington National Cathedral Police removed Toth from the grounds.

But before D.C. police could interview him, Toth vanished, heading straight for his home in Indiana. He dumped his car at a Minneapolis airport parking lot and left a suicide note saying his body could be found in a nearby lake. Investigators found a thumb drive in Toth’s car with more pornographic images of children.

Authorities followed the evidence to Illinois, then Wisconsin, before receiving a tip that he was at a homeless shelter in Phoenix in 2009.

After exhausting its leads, the FBI placed Toth on its iconic Ten Most Wanted list in April 2012. Authorities said the schoolteacher was selected partly because he represented the emergence of computer-savvy pedophiles and partly because FBI officials believed he would harm children again.

Toth became the 495th person to be named on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, filling the vacancy left when Navy SEALs killed bin Laden. Since 1950, 465 of the top 10 fugitives have been apprehended. Like Toth, a third of those were nabbed as a result of a tip from the public.

The FBI was offering a $100,000 reward for Toth’s capture.

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