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Feds: Teacher allegedly coaxed teen into taking pornographic pictures

Updated: August 29, 2014 2:20AM



The first day back in class started with scandal at a northwest suburban middle school Thursday when a fifth grade teacher was arrested in a federal child pornography bust.

John Vastis, 51 — a teacher at Meridian Middle School in Buffalo Grove — allegedly coaxed a 16-year-old boy into taking pornographic pictures and videos of himself and sending them to him over the Internet.

The boy was not a student of Vastis’s, and prosecutors say there are no allegations that he sexually exploited any students.

Wearing an inside out t-shirt and flip flops, a stunned-looking Vastis, of Lakemoor, was warned in U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole’s courtroom Thursday morning that he faces a minimum of 15 years behind bars if convicted.

Arrested at his home, he was ordered held in custody at least until a detention hearing Tuesday.

Known as “Pete,” Vastis allegedly met his now 17-year-old accuser a year ago on Skype. Computer records show he had more than 3,200 lines of chat messages with the boy, who was suspected of possessing and distributing child pornography, a criminal complaint alleges.

The boy identified Vastis after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations team lead a raid on the boy’s home on Aug. 15, the complaint states.

Charged with the sexual exploitation of a minor, Vastis allegedly twice persuaded the boy on Jan. 18 and March 3 to produce pornographic images of himself and send them to Vastis. Vastis is also charged with receiving an explicit video from the boy on July 13.

During one of their first webchats, Vastis asked the boy ““are u really 16?,” the complaint states.

The boy then replied, “yea, but most people think I’m a cop,” before Vastis allegedly responded, “I will admit it crossed my mind…ur into older guys?”

After the boy sent him pornographic images, Vastis discussed sending a photo of his own face, before deciding not to, writing that it was “probably best to wait a while, the risk is so much worse for me than for u,” it’s alleged.

They also discussed an in-person meeting, it’s alleged. And Vastis later allegedly wrote, “I just wish there was some way you could assure me that I’d never pay the price for it.”

District 102 Superintendent Theresa Dunkin said Vastis, 19 year veteran in the district, has been placed on leave.

Email: kjanssen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @kimjnews



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