A former middle school teacher in California was charged Tuesday on suspicion of child pornography after he allegedly exchanged sexually explicit photographs online with a 13-year-old South Brunswick girl.
Eugene Ballantyne, 29, of Running Springs, Ca., was arrested without incident Tuesday and charged with receipt and distribution of child pornography.
Ballantyne's arrest by FBI agents was the result of a cross-country investigation into child exploitation. The investigation began after a South Brunswick parent observed sexually explicit images on her 13-year-old daughter’s cell phone, according to police.
The woman then called South Brunswick Police, who began the initial investigation. Police determined the victim had been corresponding with a suspect located in California. South Brunswick Det. Ronald Seaman, also a member of the FBI’s New Jersey Cybercrimes Task Force, began investigating to determine who had sent the images. Seaman then identified Ballantyne as the suspect.
According to the complaint, Ballantyne allegedly met the victim in an Internet chat room, where the two exchanged contact information. Ballantyne and the teen allegedly continued corresponding through online messaging services downloaded by the victim at Ballantyne’s direction, according to police.
Using the false name of John Baldwin while communicating with the victim, Ballantyne allegedly sent nude photographs of himself to the 13-year-old and he also received partially nude, sexually suggestive photographs of the victim, according to police.
The charges allege that Ballantyne was "very demanding during phone conversations with the minor victim and persuaded the victim to engage in sexual activity while they conversed," police said.
Authorities said Ballantyne blocked his phone number on multiple occasions while he called the victim and made continual requests that the victim delete the pictures, text messages and e-mails he allegedly sent her.
Ballantyne and the teen communicated frequently during late January 2012, and he allegedly told the victim not to tell anyone about their relationship, according to the complaint.
The complaint also detailed messages Ballantyne sent to the 13-year-old, where he told her he loved her and said “how lucky” he was that the victim was in his life, police said.
On March 1, authorities executed a federal search warrant at Ballantyne’s residence searching for evidence of child pornography. During the search, Ballantyne told agents that he had been communicating with the South Brunswick minor since January this year. He also told investigators that he had received sexually explicit images from the victim, and that he received sexually explicit images from another minor female he met online approximately two years ago, identified in the complaint as “CV2.”
The complaint alleged that Ballantyne admitted to traveling 180 miles to have sex with a third minor, identified in the complaint as “CV3,” whom Ballantyne also allegedly met in an online chatroom. Ballantyne admitted to maintaining contact with both CV2 and CV3, police said.
Authorities believe that Ballantyne may have had access to other minors who have not yet been identified, based on evidence obtained during the search of his home and through further investigation. Investigators are distributing his photo to determine whether additional victims exist.
Ballantyne taught middle school in San Bernardino, California. There is currently no evidence that suggests he had illegal contact with children at the school where he was employed. Authorities are continuing to investigate with the cooperation of the San Bernardino Unified School District.
Ballantyne is scheduled to have an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Riverside at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Ballantyne will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. If convicted, Ballantyne would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
“This suspect put himself in a place of trust with young people to exploit them," said South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond J. Hayducka via release. "Our agency is committed to working with all law enforcement, anywhere to track these offenders down."
Anyone with information about the case, or the unreported victimization of minors, is urged to contact the FBI at 888 226-8443.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, detectives with the South Brunswick Police Department, and the FBI’s New Jersey Cybercrimes Task Force.