A Cranston resident who teaches social studies at Gorton Junior High School in Warwick is facing child pornography charges after allegedly posing as a teenage girl online to solicit sexual images from underage boys.
Thomas L. Hewes, 52, of 64 Verdant Drive in Cranston, was arrested Friday and charged with indecent solicitation of a child, transfer of child pornography and possession of child pornography, according to Rhode Island State Police. He was arraigned in Third Division District Court and released on $10,000 personal recognizance under the conditions he not use the Internet and have no contact with children.
Warwick Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino issued a statement on the matter Friday.
“The Warwick Public Schools has been advised by the Rhode Island State Police that Thomas Hewes, a teacher at Gorton Jr. High School, has been arrested by the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and has been charged with alleged crimes. The teacher was not in school today and has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement reads.
“If there are further developments, we will share them with the community. A Connect Ed call has been sent to the Gorton parents/staff and as far as we know no Warwick students are involved.”
Police said an investigation was initiated when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline reported that a user on the website Meetme.com – identified in that user’s profile as a 16-year-old girl – was asking underage boys using the site for the explicit photos. That tip led to the State Police Computer Crimes Unit and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force being issued a search warrant for Hewes’ home in Cranston.
The search resulted in the seizing of “digital media including two computers, an iPhone, an iPad and 24 USB flash drives,” according to police, with the flash drives hidden in a basement drop ceiling.
“A forensic preview of the digital media identified images and videos of alleged child pornography,” according to police.
Police said the investigation is ongoing “and will include a full forensic examination of the seized digital media.” No local victims have been identified at this point.