Sheriff: Hotline counselor sent obscene pics to teen caller

Apr 21, 2022, 7:30 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2022, 8:09 am

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A crisis hotline counselor in Florida sent obscene material to a teenager who called asking for help, sheriff’s officials said.

The teen called the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s 211 hotline around 9:30 p.m. on March 28. She left her contact information so an intervention specialist could return the call, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials said in a news release.

A man called back and introduced himself as a counselor at the center named “William,” and they spoke for about an hour on a recorded line, the release said. He soon called again, from a restricted phone number, telling the girl he was just checking on her, the release said.

During additional phone calls, he got the girl’s Instagram username, and followed her. He began sending direct messages to her, including explicit videos and photos, the sheriff’s office said. He then asked her to send naked photos of herself. She refused and reported the incident to a school resource deputy the next day.

Investigators discovered that the man who called himself William had actually begun working at the center about two months earlier under his real name. His cellphone was searched after a subpoena was issued and investigators confirmed the teen’s account of the phone calls, the release said.

Detectives then questioned the man and he confessed, they said.

He is accused of transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communications device.

The crisis center said in a statement that the man passed background checks before he was hired. He has been fired.

“We are deeply saddened by the actions of this former employee but thankful the victim had a resource available in the community that protected them,” Clara Reynolds, the center’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are so sorry that a vulnerable person was hurt because it goes directly against what we work for every day.”

Detectives are concerned there could be additional victims. Sheriff’s officials said the man also worked as a volunteer worship leader at Iglesia Adoración Y Palabra Jesucristo Es El Señor in nearby Wesley Chapel.

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Sheriff: Hotline counselor sent obscene pics to teen caller