At least six little boys may have been recorded while using the restroom at Northside Elementary, police say, and the El Campo ISD cafeteria director has been arrested in relation to the crime.
“There’s absolutely no evidence of any physical contact, just photographic,” El Campo Police Chief Terry Stanphill said. “In a bad situation, it’s just a little bit of good news.”
El Campo maintenance workers uncovered the crime Monday when they found a camera in a boys bathroom at Northside Elementary. “They were replacing a toilet paper dispenser. (The camera) was attached to the old one,” Stanphill said.
District officials immediately contacted police and a search for additional cameras was conducted throughout the district with no more being found.
Evidence on the camera led police to Scott Robert Gelardi, 42, of 7407 Town Center in Rosenberg, the district’s food services chief.
Gelardi was arrested without incident the next morning, Tuesday, Nov. 19, as he came to work. Investigators are still pouring over evidence, but charges have already expanded from making an invasive visual recording in a bathroom or dressing room to include possession of child pornography and possession with the intent to promote child pornography.
Gelardi posted $70,000 in bonds and was released from the Wharton County Jail at 1:36 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21.
El Campo ISD uses Aramark to provide cafeteria services and Gelardi is actually employed by that company, assigned to the local district (See related story).
As he was being arrested, police seized Gelardi’s cellphone and other electronics. Any items capable of data storage found in Gelardi’s home were also seized following a search there. It appeared that Gelardi was living there alone.
El Campo PD is being assisted by the Texas Attorney General’s Child Exploitation Unit, on site within hours of the department’s request. “There’s a lot of evidence to be processed,” Stanphill said, adding whether images were solely for the suspect’s gratification is unknown. There’s currently no evidence that images were shared. “Not that we can tell at this point. We don’t suspect it is, but it may be too early to say,” he said.
Gelardi is the sole suspect at this time and does not appear to have a criminal record.
Although a previous El Campo ISD cafeteria worker faces three counts of sexual assault of a child, there’s no evidence the two cases are linked.
Robert Lee Gonzales, 42, of 912 CR 479 was arrested just before the start of the current school year when an investigation by the AG’s crime team into the sharing of pornographic images of children uncovered his alleged crimes.
Gonzales, arrested Aug. 24, remains in the Wharton County Jail in lieu of $150,000 in bonds as of press time.
Crimes involving the placement of hidden cameras is a major concern for the department, always. “The problem is (small cameras) are so readily available on the Internet. People should always be aware,” Stanphill said.