A former Hiawatha Academies educator has been charged by federal prosecutors with several counts related to sexually exploiting at least three children online.
In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said her office wants to crack down on online child exploitation crimes. Her office has seen a 38 percent increase in those types of cases since last year, she said.
"It's my ambition that this will go down," she said during a news conference Wednesday.
The man charged, Josiah Raul Mosqueda, 27, was a former Hiawatha paraprofessional who last worked at the school in June 2018, according to school spokeswoman Libby Stegger.
"We absolutely want to make sure our scholars are safe," Stegger said. "We are cooperating with law enforcement, and we want to assure our entire community that we're taking every available precaution."
In a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday, Mosqueda is accused of communicating with students ages 13 to 17 over Facebook from July 2017 to November 2018. Eventually, he exchanged sexually explicit messages and pictures with them, the complaint says.
After sending photos to one teen in November, he wrote, "I mean if I show you you literally can't show anyone. I would go to jail and never be able to teach or work in the school," according to the complaint.
Mosqueda faces four counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, one count of receiving child pornography, one for transferring obscene material to a minor, and one count each of producing and distributing child pornography. He was ordered to remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing Monday.
Drew Evans, the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), said that his agency is looking for other potential victims.
On his LinkedIn account, Mosqueda said that he is a St. Olaf College graduate, a former head soccer coach with Minneapolis Public Schools, and former fellow with the AmeriCorps.
MacDonald said her office is starting a public awareness campaign on preventing child exploitation, starting with a Bloomington event in May. She also urged parents to be vigilant and monitor who their children are communicating with online. If parents suspect anything suspicious, they should report it to the BCA, she said.
She pointed to two other recent cases to show the harm of online child exploitation. Last month, her office charged a Fairmont, Minn., man after he was accused of threatening to kidnap a child and her parents if she did not provide him with sexually explicit images.
In 2017, a former Bemidji assistant principal pleaded guilty to producing and distributing child porn in a case that involved more than 50 minor victims.