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Eric Toth, on FBI's most wanted list, is arrested in Nicaragua

April 23, 2013|By Laura J. Nelson

A former elementary school teacher who had been on the run for nearly five years was arrested in Nicaragua over the weekend on suspicion of producing pornography of young boys, the FBI said Tuesday.

Eric Justin Toth, now 31, was once a third-grade teacher at Beauvoir, an exclusive elementary school attached to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. When Beauvoir officials confronted him about pornography of a student on a school camera, he fled.

"That media card contained many images that you expect to see on the camera of a teacher: pictures of kids smiling, playing in the classroom," U.S. Atty. Ronald C. Machen Jr. said at a news conference Tuesday. "It also contained images that would be any parent’s worst nightmare: pornographic images of a young boy, and a video of an adult male fondling that little boy."

His face was soon plastered on billboards across the country, and his story ran on national and international TV programs, including "America's Most Wanted."

He appeared in federal court Tuesday in Washington and was ordered held without bond. He faces charges of producing child pornography.

After law enforcement received a "very accurate tip," they traced Toth's travel records and financial information, the FBI said. Nicaraguan authorities arrested him in Esteli, the country's third-largest city, where he had been living under an alias.

Because Toth is a "known child predator" on the run for five years, authorities continue to investigate his activity in all the places he lived. 

"We assume there are potentially other victims," said Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office. “I’m not sure that we’ve identified all the local victims.”

Toth sometimes spent the night in his classroom closet and held 8- and 9-year-old boys on his lap, Beauvoir parents told the Washington Post. The parents said it was "common knowledge" that Toth was unusually invested in the lives of his young students, including baby-sitting and tutoring some boys for free.

In 2008, after Toth fled Washington, his Honda sedan was found abandoned in a parking lot at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Authorities believe he also traveled to Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.

A year later, Toth appeared at a homeless shelter in Phoenix, where he volunteered as a tutor, authorities said. He said he had taken a vow of poverty. Someone at the shelter recognized Toth from "America's Most Wanted" and called the FBI. Toth disappeared before law enforcement arrived.

The FBI added Toth to the most-wanted list last year. The space he took up on the list had been occupied by Osama bin Laden and Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger.

Since the FBI created the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1950, 469 fugitives have been arrested or found.

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