TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former Vineland elementary school teacher who was a stage manager for a summer theater camp was sentenced to prison today on charges that he took an explicit photo of a young school student and manufactured child pornography by hiding a camera in restrooms at the theater camp to record underage boys.
Thomas Guzzi Jr., 40, of Pitman, N.J., was sentenced to 17 years in prison, including 10 years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County. He pleaded guilty on July 16, 2019 to official misconduct, manufacturing child pornography, and distribution of 25 or more files of child pornography. Guzzi must register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will be subject to parole supervision for life. He is permanently barred from public employment.
Guzzi formerly taught 5th grade at Winslow Elementary School and was an advisor and stage manager for youth productions at the school and the Broadway Theatre of Pitman. In pleading guilty, Guzzi admitted that he captured images and videos of teenage boys urinating in restrooms at the summer theater camp in Pitman. He admitted that he manufactured child pornography with the footage, creating a music video of one boy that had images and video of the boy urinating edited together with video recordings of him dancing in rehearsals for the summer musical production. In pleading guilty to official misconduct, Guzzi admitted that while teaching in a summer program at a second school in Vineland, he took a photo of a boy exposing his genitals.
Deputy Attorneys General Rachael Weeks, Derek Miller, and John Nicodemo prosecuted Guzzi for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau. Guzzi was arrested in 2016 in “Operation Safeguard,” a child pornography sweep conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the New Jersey State Police. Guzzi had hundreds of files of child pornography on computers seized from his home during execution of a search warrant on Feb. 19, 2016. He was terminated by the school district and his teaching license was revoked after his arrest.
“Guzzi used his positions as a teacher and a stage manager at a summer theater camp to violate the privacy and innocence of children entrusted to his care,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This lengthy prison sentence sends a strong message that we will aggressively prosecute predators like Guzzi who harm and sexually exploit children.”
“In this case, what started with the arrest of a child pornography offender in a multi-defendant sweep led to evidence of manufacturing of child pornography and criminal conduct against children this defendant supervised,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This case illustrates why, in all of our cyber investigations involving child pornography, we look at all of the evidence found on electronic devices and pursue every lead to uncover any criminal conduct and potential victims. This prison sentence is a testament to the thorough work of our multi-agency investigative team.”
“Child pornography robs children of their innocence and further exploits them when these images are shared online,” said Jeff Kocher, Resident Agent in Charge, Cherry Hill Homeland Security Investigations. “HSI will continue to aggressively pursue these child predators and work as in this case with other law enforcement partners.”
During Operation Safeguard, special agents of Homeland Security Investigations and detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit monitored online file-sharing networks that are popular with offenders who download and share child pornography. Using advanced technology, the investigators searched for digital “fingerprints” of known child pornography, as well as search terms used by such offenders. Through these and other methods, they identified New Jersey residents who were downloading child pornography and making child pornography available to others in “shared folders” on their computers.
Guzzi was arrested on Feb. 19, 2016, when detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice executed a search warrant at his residence. A special agent from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations previously had downloaded three videos of child pornography from a shared folder at an IP address traced to Guzzi and had referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice. During the search, detectives seized computer equipment belonging to Guzzi, including desktop, laptop and tablet computers, as well as external hard drives. A forensic preview of the laptop revealed not only child pornography, but also a video showing Guzzi installing a camera in a public restroom and a man then using the restroom.
Subsequent full forensic examinations of Guzzi’s computer devices revealed video recordings of multiple boys and adult men using restrooms. The investigation revealed that the videos were captured by Guzzi using a hidden camera placed in two restrooms, one backstage at the Broadway Theater in Pitman, and a second connected to a rehearsal space across the street from the main theater building. Neither restroom was open to the general public. Investigators also discovered that Guzzi not only surreptitiously videotaped children and adults using those restrooms during the 2015 summer theater camp program, but he also created the pornographic music video and photo montages using video footage from the restrooms of two underage boys whose identities were determined through the investigation. The nude photos and video recordings used in the music video and montages were culled from about three hours of restroom footage recorded during the summer camp program. Investigators located more than 300 files of child pornography on Guzzi’s computer devices.
Deputy Attorneys General Nicodemo and Weeks, former Detective Tiffany Lenart, former Detective Laura Hurley, Detective Richard DaSilva and Detective Charles Pusloski investigated the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, in collaboration with HSI agents. Analyst Nathalie Kurzawa provided extensive assistance in preparing the case for trial.
Attorney General Grewal thanked HSI Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael. He also thanked the Pitman Police Department, as well as the staff of the Broadway Theatre of Pitman, who cooperated fully and provided valuable assistance throughout the investigation.
Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende urged anyone with information about the distribution of child pornography on the internet – or about suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children – to please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.
Edward Crisonino, Esq., Haddon Township, N.J.
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