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Friday, Jun 23, 2017
Crime & Courts

Former Pinellas teacher arrested in Polk on child porn charges

A Haines City teacher who previous worked in Pinellas County was among three people arrested on charges of possessing child pornography in a Polk County.

Those arrests and 13 others were the result of an undercover sting that also targeted online solicitation of minors for sex, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said Tuesday.

Matthew Tillesen, 28, a geometry teacher at Haines City High School, faces 50 counts of possession of child pornography.

At a news conference, Judd said Tillesen is “very dangerous” and may have victims in Pinellas, where he worked as a substitute teacher for two years before being hired in Polk.

Judd asked parents to talk with their children to see if they have been around Tillesen or if anything inappropriate occurred.

According to the Polk sheriff’s office, a search warrant revealed the images on a computer at Tillesen’s home. Some files contained the phrase “PTHC,” or preteen hardcore, investigators said. The youngest victim depicted was about 2 years old, Judd said. According to an arrest affidavit, Tillesen told investigators that the child pornography helps him “become someone else while (he is) writing” and he incorporated it in a role-playing game he was creating.

“His goal was to create a sexual role-playing game for children,” Judd said.

According to the affidavit, Tillesen told investigators he began viewing child pornography three to six months ago, and previously only viewed children at nude beaches, stating he knew that was not illegal.

According to the affidavit, Tillesen told investigators he traded child pornography via email with several unknown subjects.

According to reports, the Polk school board will recommend that Tillesen be fired at a meeting later this month.

The sheriff’s operation, which ended Monday, was orchestrated in two phases, the first targeting child pornography, the latter online solicitations.

Three theme park workers, a USF student and a Palm Harbor man were among those arrested in the second phase and face charges including traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child.

Allen Treaster, 40, of Kissimmee, a concierge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, initiated an online sexual conversation with a detective posing as a 14-year-old boy, authorities said. Detectives are also investigating an admission by Treaster that he previously traveled to Georgia and had sex with a 15-year-old boy, the sheriff’s office said.

Zachary Spencer, 26, of Clermont, a ticket supervisor at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, initiated an online sexual conversation with a detective posing as a 13-year-old boy, deputies said.

Matthew “Cody” Myers, 23, of Davenport, is a food service worker at Universal Studios who previous worked at Disney World and SeaWorld, the sheriff’s office said. He initiated an online sexual conversation with a detective who identified herself as a 14-year-old girl, authorities said.

The sting also led to the arrests of Stephen Carlson, 23, of Palm Harbor, and Jacob Bickel, 20, a University of South Florida student from Naples. Charges against Carlson, Bickel and eight others include traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child.

Two others, including a Lakeland 17-year-old boy, face charges of possessing child pornography.

Judd issued a warning to others who have not “gotten the message” and plan to committ similar crimes.

“We love to arrest sexual predators” Judd said. “We love to arrest child pornographers. And that’s what we are going to continue to do.”

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