Bronx Science Debate Coach Jon Cruz Arrested On Child Porn Charges

03/09/2015 10:53 am ET | Updated Mar 09, 2015

An award-winning debate team coach at a prominent New York City public high school faces child pornography charges after federal authorities say he posed as a teen on social media and paid underage boys thousands of dollars for nude photos of themselves.

Jon Cruz was a arrested Friday following an FBI investigation. He teaches social studies and coaches the debate team at New York City's Bronx High School of Science, where he has won multiple awards for distinguished service since 2006.

Colleagues interviewed by the New York Daily News were "surprised" to learn of the allegations. One debate coach, who did not want to be named, told the paper that "no one ever heard anything untoward about [Cruz]."

On Friday, the FBI charged that Cruz allegedly used a photo of one of his former students as the profile picture on a text messaging app called Kik. He is accused of using the messenger to contact and coerce multiple victims into producing child porn. The FBI launched its probe of the teacher in December 2014 after the parents of one of the victims discovered their son's exchanges with the alias.

Authorities say Cruz contacted underage boys posing as a 15- or 16-year-old student at the Dalton School in New York City. He told his victims that he was a "nerd" with rich parents who "had a thing for jocks," chatted with them about sex, and paid them money for nude photos, according to charging documents.

One teen in New Mexico was paid $900 for pictures of his feet and face, and another received $1600 in gift cards in exchange for photos. Cruz sent a third victim $500 for nudes, and asked him to provide "names of other boys who would chat," the documents said.

The New York Post quoted from Cruz's messages to victims:

"Pictures just have a huge impact on me. Seeing your feet and face and muscles and room and awards and stuff reinforces what a big deal you are," Cruz wrote, before asking if they can talk about sex.

Cruz worked with children as part of his everyday duties at Bronx Science. The FBI investigation revealed that he paid a student for a non-nude photo. The Department of Education said that Cruz won't have further contact with students, and that they are cooperating with law enforcement.

"It takes a special depravity to produce child pornography. This type of insidious behavior must stop,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez said in a news release. “And others who think they can hide in the Deep Web or are beyond the reach of law enforcement should think again. Our youth deserve our unwavering commitment to their security, particularly from a coach and teacher at their school."

Cruz is held on $1 million bail.

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