Post link 07 March 2015, 22:23
By Shawn Cohen, Jamie Schram and Bob Fredericks March 6, 2015 | 6:21pm
Bronx Science High School debate coach Jon Cruz.
Photo: Facebook

An award-winning teacher and debate coach at the prestigious Bronx High School of Science — who likes to dress up like Liberace — paid teenage boys to send him nude and other lurid photos of themselves, the feds charged on Friday.

Jonathan Cruz, 31, spilled his guts after he was busted at his pad at 60 East 9th Street in the East Village about 9:40 a.m., admitting he had showered at least five victims with hundreds of dollars of gift cards in exchange for fetish photos of their feet, crotch shots and also “thumbs-up” selfies, according to a criminal complaint.

Cruz posed as a teen “nerd” online and told his victims he was a wealthy student at the Dalton School in Manhattan, the complaint said.
He explained his sick fascination in a message to one of his 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.

US Attorney Preet Bhrara blasted the educator for exploiting the underage boys.

“What makes this case even more disturbing than the charges themselves is, as alleged, Jon Cruz was involved in child pornography while he was working with children every day through his job as a teacher and debate coach,” Bharara said.

Cruz used a Facebook photo of a former student and pretended it was a picture of him in conversations with the victims — who went to other schools — on the social media site kik.

He also paid a Bronx Science student for a non-nude photo, the feds said.
Jon Cruz.
Photo: Facebook

Several of the boys he corresponded with were from New Mexico, while at least one was from upstate New York.

Authorities learned of the case when the parents of one of the New Mexico teens found evidence of Cruz’s sick exchanges on the boy’s computer and alerted cops there, who contacted the FBI.

Cruz was charged with producing, receiving and possessing child pornography, and faces up to 70 years behind bars if convicted of all three counts. He was arraigned Friday and was being held on a $ 1 million bond.

One of the New Mexico teens allegedly got $1,600 in Visa and American Express gift cards in exchange for sending Cruz nude and other photos.

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The other victims also got hundreds of dollars in cards.

According to his LinkedIn page, Cruz has been the Director of Speech & Debate at the high school since 2005. He was the 2013 National Speech & Debate Association Coach of the Year, is a four-time recipient of the Association’s Distinguished Service Award.
He was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the National Speech & Debate Association and is currently serving his second term as the president of the New York State Debate Coaches Association.

He taught AP US Government & Politics at the school and is also the advisor to the Bronx Science Gay-Straight Alliance. Schools department spokesman harry Hatfield said Cruz – who earns a salary of $61,230 – had not been fired but was removed from the classroom following his arrest.

Additional reporting by Aaron Short

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