|Child-Porn Case Snares Lumberton Teacher
By Jim Walsh
April 24, 2008
LUMBERTON — A popular teacher here had hundreds of images of child pornography on his home computer, including one that showed an unclothed toddler in a sexual situation, authorities say.
Joseph E. Macanga, who taught social studies and language arts at Lumberton Middle School, was arrested by FBI agents at his township home about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. The teacher, charged with possession of child pornography, was held on $100,000 bail.
"If it's true, a lot of people are still in complete disbelief," said school district spokeswoman Betsy Kapulskey. She said Macanga, who told the FBI he was an ex-priest, was his school's Educator of the Year in 2003.
The FBI said no local students were involved in the case, and no pornography was found on Macanga's school computer, according to the school district.
School officials learned of the allegations against the 10-year teacher on Wednesday, Kapulskey said. FBI agents first found suspected child porn on Macanga's personal computer in October, according to court papers.
"I think the district feels, and this is just me, they would have liked to have known ahead of time . . . to be able to have him out of the school," she said.
Sean Quinn, an FBI spokesman in Newark, said the agency cannot disclose an investigation before a subject's arrest. Doing so could jeopardize cases when they come to trial and would violate a suspect's rights, he said.
"We understand their concerns," he said of the school district. "But it's not just a policy, it's the Constitution. As bad as Mr. Macanga's actions may have been, he still has rights."
Macanga admitted to using his computer to send and receive child pornography in two FBI interviews last week, according to the criminal complaint.
The sixth-grade teacher, who also coached girls' soccer and basketball teams, will not return to the Lumberton district, Kapulskey said. The school board is expected to address his status at its meeting tonight.
Schools Superintendent Frank Logandro, who called Macanga "a leader in the school and a pillar in the Lumberton community," said a crisis team has been formed to help students.
"Additional counseling staff will be available for Mr. Macanga's current students," he said.
Macanga attracted investigators' attention on Aug. 6, when he engaged in an online conversation with an undercover agent, said FBI Special Agent Jamie Banko, who probes "chat rooms" used by pedophiles.
FBI agents seized Macanga's computer after a visit to his Torrington Court home on Oct. 11. A forensic examination of the computer, completed on March 21, found more than 300 images of child porn, according to the complaint. It also showed Macanga's computer had been used to access nearly 30 chat rooms with names like "baby&toddlerlove."
If convicted, Macanga faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But a federal judge would consult sentencing guidelines that consider factors like the severity of the offense and the defendant's background.
Staff writer Renee Winkler contributed to this report. Reach Jim Walsh at (856) 486-2646 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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