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Police Search for Windham Bank Robber


Police are searching for the man who robbed a bank on Boston Post Road in Windham late Friday morning.

According to police, a man wearing a dark-colored hat and sunglasses entered the Northeast Family Credit Union at361 Boston Post Road shortly before noon Friday and demanded money.

He got away with an undisclosed amount of cash and left on foot. A police K-9 brought in to track him lost the scent at a business complex to the south on Boston Post Road, police said.

The suspect is described as a light-skinned man in his late 40s or early 50s. He was wearing a dark hat, sunglasses, a dark-colored vest and long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans and black dress shoes. Police said the man has a mustache and salt-and-pepper beard.

Anyone with information is urged to call Connecticut State Police Troop K at 860-465-5400.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Man Sentenced in Murder of Second Teen


A New Britain man who is serving a life sentence for the murder of one Hartford teenager has been convicted in the murder of another.

Pedro Miranda, 57, a registered sex offender, was arrested in 2008 when DNA evidence linked him to the murder of Carmen Lopez, a pregnant 17 year old; as well as Rosa Valentin, 16, and Mayra Cruz, 13, according  to police.

Another man spent 20 years in prison for the murder of Carmen Lopez until his name was cleared and he was released after new evidence came to light following the Connecticut Innocence Project bringing new information about the murders to Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Hartford.

On Thursday, a jury found Miranda guilty in the murder of Cruz, whose body was found in a wooded area of East Windsor on Nov. 8, 1997.

Miranda is already serving a life sentence, plus 100 years, for the murder of  Lopez, who was found strangled on Jan. 5, 1988 in an apartment on Nelton Court in Hartford.

He will be sentenced for the murder of Cruz on April 30 and is awaiting trial for charges connected to the murder of Rosa Valentine.

The victims:

Rosa Valentin, 16, was last seen alive in Miranda’s car on July 26, 1986. Her body has never been found and she is presumed dead, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice.

Mayra Cruz, 13, was reported missing when she did not return home from school in Hartford on Oct. 8, 1987. Her body was found in a wooded area in East Windsor on Nov. 8, 1987.

Carmen Lopez’s relatives last heard from her on Jan. 2, 1988. She was found strangled on Jan. 5, 1988, in an apartment on Nelton Court in Hartford.

Miranda was convicted in the May 29, 1998, sexual assault of a 24-year-old woman in West Hartford and was required to register on the State of Connecticut Sex Offender Registry.

Police questioned Miranda about the crimes in the 1980s, but did not have enough evidence at the time to charge him.

Oil Delivery Driver Robbed at Gunpoint in New Haven


Police are investigating after a delivery driver for the Eastern Fuel Company was robbed at gunpoint while making a delivery in New Haven on Wednesday morning.

According to police, the 53-year-old driver was delivering oil at 39-41 Mead Street in New Haven when he was confronted by a man with a gun. The robber demanded money from the driver, who was sitting in his truck.

The driver said he didn't have any money, so the robber ordered him out of the truck and patted him down. He took $21 from the delivery driver's wallet, searched the truck and grabbed his cellphone, according to police.

Police said the robber dropped the stolen cellphone as he ran, so the driver picked up at dialed 911. He described the robber as a light-skinned man his his mid-20s to early 30s with a thin build and "severe facial acne."

The robber was wearing a mask and dressed in all black, according to police.

Anyone with information is urged to contact New Haven police.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Winter Leaves Greenhouses Waiting for Sales to Bloom


While the ground is still covered in winter white, it is tough to think about spring. However, inside the greenhouses at Kurtz Farms in Cheshire, the talk is about soil, not snow.

“What we really need now is for the snow to be gone because we really need some sales,” E.J. Kurtz said.

The farms have been family owned since the 1940s and the greenhouses take up roughly 15 acres off of Peck Lane in Cheshire. With day after day of single-digit temperatures, keeping the green houses warm has not been easy.

“The weather has not really cooperated with the temperatures so we spend a lot more on energy costs for the fuel,” Kurtz said.

The owners know from experience it is important to keep the greenhouses heated so they do not collapse under the weight of the snow. Now they are hoping it all starts to melt so they can start to move some of their product outside and have room inside to grow more.

If you plan on planting your own, Kurtz said pansies are one flower that can take the frost. Cabbage and lettuce are good cold weather crops too.

For those waiting on Mother Nature so they can start planting, Kurtz said tulips and daffodils might be delayed, but you can start shoveling out your garden now.

“So when it does melt, you’re not going to have mud in your garden,” Kurtz said. “That will make it easier to plant.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Emergency Work Closes Chapel Street Bridge in New Haven


New Haven’s Chapel Street Bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic during emergency repair work and it is expected to remain closed for the entire weekend and into next week.

New Haven officials said the bridge, which carries Chapel Street across the Mill River, was opened to allow boats to pass on the river, but a component of the mechanism that lifts and locks the bridge broke.

Engineers were immediately called, public works was notified and repairs are scheduled to begin Monday.

Until the repair is complete, the bridge will be closed, but it will be operational to allow for boats to pass if required. The bridge will be staffed around-the-clock, detour signs are posted and crash gates will be lowered with lights flashing. The Chapel Street Bridge will remain open for foot traffic.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Chihuahua Found in Luggage in NYC


The TSA found an unlikely stowaway while checking baggage at LaGuardia Airport this week -- a passenger’s pet Chihuahua.

Security agents were screening luggage in the baggage check Tuesday when a hard black suitcase triggered an alarm, the agency said. When they opened the bag, agents were surprised to find the small brown and beige pup staring up at them.

After finding the dog, the TSA was able to track down the dog’s owner, who said the pup must have climbed in the suitcase while packing for a trip.

The woman later called her husband, who came to pick up the dog.

Mistrial Declared in Case of ECSU Student's Suspected Killer


A deadlocked jury has prompted a mistrial in the case of a 32-year-old man accused of killing and dismembering his girlfriend of four years, Eastern Connecticut State University student Alyssiah Marie Wiley.

According to the attorney representing defendant Jermaine Richards, the 12-member jury deliberated for about five full days before ultimately failing to reach a consensus.

Jurors reportedly sent the judge a note Monday saying they were "deeply divided" on the case.

"On the one hand it's frustrating... On the other hand, it was certainly obvious that the jurors were extremely contentious in their efforts," defense attorney John Gulash said in a statement Friday. "As frustrating as it is that they weren't able to reach a decision, I cannot in any way fault the jurors for their obvious hard work."

Wiley disappeared in April 2013 and was found dead in Trumbull nearly a month later, less than two miles from Richards' home. She was last seen getting out of Richards' car at a Dairy Queen in Willimantic.

A 12-parge affidavit released after Richards' arrest depicted a turbulent four-year relationship between the two. According to the documents, Wiley tried to break up with Richards over Facebook in the days before her disappearance.

According to the affidavit, Richards allegedly told a friend, "Man, I'm going to get rid of her."

He'll appear in court again March 12 for the start of a re-trial, according to the Fairfield Judicial District.

NBC Connecticut has reached out to Wiley's mother for comment.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Chunk of Building Falls Onto Main Street in Middletown


Police have roped off the area of the Main Street Market at 386 Main Street in Middletown after a piece of the building crumbled onto the sidewalk Friday afternoon.

No one was hurt, but police and firefighters briefly shut down the northbound lane of Main Street while they responded to the scene.

The sidewalk is still cordoned off while workers repair the damaged building.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Selma Youth Group Pushes to Rename Historic Bridge


A youth group in Selma, Alabama, is pushing to rename the iconic bridge where white police officers attacked hundreds of black civil rights activists demonstrating for voting rights 50 years ago, saying the bridge's namesake Edmund Pettus was a Ku Klux Klan leader.

Students UNITE, a racially diverse group of high school and college students that provides mentorship and non-violence training to at-risk youth, has launched a petition to change the bridge's name, charging that its current one represents oppression.

“The name of the bridge should be representative of the city,” the group’s executive director John Gainey, 25, told NBC. “We’re very hopeful that it will be renamed. We don’t need a KKK leader’s name on the gateway to the city.”

The name “sends the wrong message," Gainey added.

"The legacy that Edmund Pettus had, including the things he represented — we don't want to honor that," he said.

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, an online database maintained by the University of Alabama, Auburn University and the Alabama Department of Education, Pettus was grand dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan in 1877.

Pettus' KKK leadership is disputed, however, by Selma historian Alston Fitts, who told the Associated Press this week that he doubts Pettus was involved. "He was a pretty lousy Klan leader, if that's what he was," Fitts said.

As of Friday, the online petition to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge, launched two weeks ago, needed 41,000 more signatures for it to reach its 200,000 goal.

Gainey called that “incredible” response from supporters somewhat surprising. "We didn't really expect it to take off in the way it had,” he said. "I hope this petition will help to create a conversation.”

Any possible renaming depends in large part on support from the governor and other state lawmakers, who have yet to introduce a bill.

The petition is addressed to the Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Selma Mayor George Patrick Evans and the U.S. National Park Services.

A spokesman for Mayor Evans told NBC that she didn't know whether Student UNITE had spoken with the mayor. The governor's office did not immediately return a call for comment.

The historic Edmund Pettus Bridge was built in 1940 and is named to honor Pettus, a Confederate general and former U.S. senator who lived in Selma, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

On March 7, 1965, hundreds of black civil rights advocates made a first attempt to march 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, to protest the disenfranchisement of blacks in the South.

As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Alabama state troopers beat the peaceful protesters with bullwhips and billy clubs and threw tear gas at them. Dozens were injured, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), who led the march and whose skull was fractured in the attack. 

While the momentum to rename the bridge is high, some residents in Selma oppose that move, like the city’s first black mayor, James Perkins, who was elected to his first term in 2000.

"I understand and appreciate what the movement and the young people are, but changing the name is a bad idea," Perkins said in an interview. "I don't agree with it."

"The name of the bridge helps explain the contradiction that exists in America. Sometimes it's good to keep these images in our face," he said. "If you remove it, you have a tendency to forget where you're trying to go. It's the most valuable asset we have in Selma."

Photo Credit: Students UNITE
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Scammers Target MDC Customers


The Metropolitan District Commission is warning residents of impostors targeting water company customers in the Hartford area and demanding payments over the phone.

According to the MDC, scammers pretending to be water company employees are calling customers in Hartford and threatening to shut off their water service unless they make a credit card payment.

So far, the MDC has received two or three reports from customers in the capitol city.

A spokesperson for the MDC said the company will never solicit money over the phone or show up on customers' doorsteps unannounced. All employees wear wear identifiable clothing and drive vehicles marked with the MDC logo.

Anyone who receives a suspicious call or an unscheduled visit from someone purporting to be with the water company is urged to call the MDC Command Center at 860-278-7850 ext. 3600.

If you have doubts about the visitors' motives, call the police and do not let them into your home.

Red Wig Bandit Linked to Robberies in Darien, Greenwich


A woman accused of robbing a bank in New Jersey while wearing a bright red wig has been linked to two other bank robberies in Darien and Greenwich, according to police.

Michelle C. Cantatore, 51, of White Plains, New York, was arrested at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Thursday in connection with the Feb. 18 robbery of a bank in nearby Glen Rock.

Police said Cantatore has been identified as a person of interest in the Feb. 24 robbery of a Chase Bank in Darien, and is also being investigated in a Jan. 30 case out of Greenwich.

Cantatore could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted in the Glen Rock robbery.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

Fifth Student Arrested in Wesleyan Party Drug Overdose Case


A fifth Wesleyan University student has been arrested amid an investigation into overdoses on the so-called party drug, Molly, or MDMA, that sent almost a dozen people to the hospital over the weekend of Feb. 21 and 22.

Eleven Wesleyan students and guests people were rushed to Middlesex Hospital on Sunday, Feb. 22  due to "complications arising from the use of a version of the drug Molly, a refined and more powerful form of Ecstasy (MDMA)," Wesleyan University President Michael Roth said in a letter to the school community.

Police reports describing the investigation that led to arrests say one person who became ill showed signs of cardiac arrest after possibly ingesting drugs at a party the night before. Everyone who was hospitalized has since been released.

Abhimanyu Janamanchi, 21, of Rockville, Maryland, turned himself in at Middletown Police headquarters on Friday and has been charged with two counts of distribution of a hallucinogen, two counts of possession of hallucinogen, possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.

He is the fifth student to be arrested in the case.

"We have been informed by the Middletown Police Department that a fifth Wesleyan student has been arrested in connection with the drug poisoning incidents on Feb. 22. Given the nature of the charges, we immediately suspended this student pending a formal hearing.  Wesleyan takes very seriously allegations concerning the distribution of dangerous drugs, and we will continue to cooperate with state and local officials to do everything we can to make our community as safe as possible," the school said in a statement.

Within days of investigating, police arrested the first four Wesleyan students, three of whom were studying neuroscience.

The students, identified as Eric Lonergan, 21; Andrew Olson, 20; Zachary Kramer, 21; and Rama Agha Al Nakib, 20, were arrested on drug charges and immediately suspended from the school pending a formal hearing. Nakib is due in court on March 24.

Lonergan, Kramer and Olson pleaded not guilty and are due back in court on April 21.

Bond for Janamanchi was set at $50,000 and he is due back in court on April 24.

Following the incidents,  university officials sent emails to the student body imploring them to avoid MDMA and other risky drugs that can pose real health hazards.

Police are continuing to investigate.

Photo Credit: Middletown Police

Changing Clocks Usher in Warmer Weather


Somewhere buried by snow piles sits green grass waiting to grow, trees bursting to bud and flowers fighting for freedom.

It has been a while, but the clocks "spring ahead" this weekend, we'll also finally see our first glimpse of warmer weather. The NBC Connecticut Fist Alert Weather App is showing a string of sunny skies ahead.

“I love it, I absolutely love it,” said Cynthia Thompson, of New Britain.

Today at Walnut Hill Park, walkers and runners agreed it's a well-deserved way to wind down a winter that has felt like a work-week Wednesday that would never end.

“It has been terrible,” said Mark Przytuski.

Przytuski said losing an hour of sleep Sunday is a sacrifice that must be made to also lose some layers.

“Come the weekend hopefully I won’t have to have the scarf and the hate and I won’t need a hood,” Przytuski said.

The thaw will take some time, but at Walnut Hill, they taking the latest forecast and running with it.

Hebron Maple Festival Postponed Over Snow


So much snow has built up in Hebron that town officials have decided to postpone the annual Maple Festival.

One maple syrup maker today plowed through the snow so tomorrow, he'll be able to tap trees.

"It's a disease and there's absolutely no cure for this," said Ron Wenzel. "This is the second time in the 26 years that I've been making maple syrup that I did not make any syrup in the month of February."

Last year, he started tapping March 9 and had 90 gallons of syrup by April 2. Usually, he said, it takes twice as long to make 90 gallons of syrup.

He'll be showing off his sugar house, and, he hopes, fresh syrup, during the Hebron Maple Festival March 21-22, which will take place one weekend later than usual.

Calling Hours Held for Norwich Priest Killed in Crash


Friends and parishioners of a Greek orthodox priest killed in a Norwich crash last weekend are hailing from as far away as Georgia and Indiana to say goodbye to Rev. Father Matthew Baker.

Mourners are meeting at Baker's parish, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Norwich, for his calling hours Friday evening. Baker was killed during a Sunday night snowstorm when he was ejected from his minivan.

He had just left the church with his six children, who survived. The parish is now trying to help support the family Baker leaves behind.

"We're doing our best," said parish council president Maria Valkanos. "Everyone is pitching in everywhere, from food to helping Presvytera with arrangements."

Presvytera Katherine, the priest's widow, was home during the fateful storm.

Thousands of people have contributed more than $500,000 to a GoFundMe page to benefit Baker's wife and children.

"The Internet is a handy tool right now," said Valkanos, "because it did get the word out to many people and many people are acting to help, because Presvytera will need help."

Like most people at Holy Trinity, she only met Baker in January, when he joined the parish. But she said he and his family are the kind of people you just want to be around.

The funeral with full liturgy take place in Rhode Island on Saturday morning.

50 Years Later: Selma to Montgomery March By the Numbers


Thousands of people are expected to descend on Alabama this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush are among those expected to commemorate Bloody Sunday, when sheriff's deputies attacked with tear gas, batons and whips non-violent marchers who were trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.

A record 95 members of Congress are also expected to be in Selma for the events, according to USA Today.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had made Selma the center of their voter registration campaign for blacks. The marches, which continued after Bloody Sunday, are credited with leading the way to passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Here's a look at historic marches and their impact:

3: The number of marches for black voting rights that took place in 1965 to complete the 54-mile journey from Selma to Alabama's capital Montgomery. 

2: Fewer than this percentage of Selma’s eligible black voters were allowed to register to vote at the time of the Selma march, according to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute

600-Plus: The number of people who attempted to march the 54 miles on Sunday, March 7, 1965, from Selma to Montgomery. While crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Alabama state troopers and vigilantes beat the peaceful protesters with bullwhips and billy clubs and threw tear gas at them. Dozens were injured. Civil rights activist John Lewis, who led the march and is now a long-time congressman from Georgia, suffered a skull fracture, according to a transcript of his testimony during a federal hearing days after the march.

March 9: The date when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the second march, but turned the marchers around because state troopers again blocked the road. That night, a group of segregationists beat one white minister to his death because he supported the Selma march. President Lyndon Johnson supported the marchers, and under the protection of Alabama National Guardsmen and FBI agents, Dr. King and about 300 people set off again on March 21 and marched 54 miles to Montgomery, according to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. They covered 7 to 17 miles per day, camped at night in supporters’ yards and were entertained by celebrities such as Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne.

March 15: President Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress on this day in 1965, urging lawmakers to pass the Voting Rights Act to protect black Americans from barriers that prevented them from voting.

March 25: The day when marchers arrived in Montgomery. Around 25,000 people stood before the state Capitol buliding, where Dr. King delivered the "How Long, Not Long" speech, according to the Library of Congress.

15: The age of Lynda Blackman Lowery, the youngest person to join King for the historic march. In a recent report, The Associated Press, the now 64-year old recalled that she got 28 stitches to close a wound on the back of her head and seven for a cut above her right eye.

1,500: The number of people who marched in Harlem in solidarity with the Selma voting rights struggle, according to the Library of Congress.

6 months: The number of months after Bloody Sunday before President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965. The law tackled discriminatory election practices that had prevented black Americans from voting, and it required states with histories of discrimination to get federal approval before changing how they conducted elections. In the first four years after the law was enacted, the number of blacks deemed eligible to vote rose from 23 to 61 percent, according to the Library of Congress.

Jan. 9, 2015: The date when the Oscar nominated best picture movie "Selma" was widely released in the U.S. The film, directed by Ava Marie DuVernay, chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders’ effort to secure equal voting rights and the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

March 7, 2015: The date when the country will celebrate the 50th anniversary and reenactment of the historic march.

Photo Credit: AP
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Accused Vigilante Killer Arraigned


A Westchester man was arraigned on manslaughter and murder charges Friday in what prosecutors are calling a vigilante shooting death of a rape suspect two years ago.

David Carlson, 43, is accused of shooting Norris Acosta-Sanchez in the driveway of his town of Deerpark home in October 2013. 

Prosecutors say the two men knew each other: Carlson encountered Acosta-Sanchez near his home in August of 2013 and they became friendly. Carlson hired Acosta-Sanchez to do odd jobs on his property and paid him with food, and he and his wife even took Acosta-Sanchez shopping. Over time, Acosta-Sanchez gave Spanish lessons to Carlson's children. 

Then on Oct. 5, 2013, Carlson learned Acosta-Sanchez was wanted by police in Rockland County on a second-degree rape warrant involving a 14-year-old girl, according to prosecutors. Carlson contacted police. 

Four days later, state police pulled over Acosta-Sanchez in a traffic stop near Carlson's home, and Acosta-Sanchez ran out of the vehicle and ran into the woods, escaping police.

On the morning of Oct. 11, Acosta-Sanchez knocked on Carlson's front door. Carlson grabbed a loaded pump-action shotgun and confronted Acosta-Sanchez, prosecutors said, and marched him from the driveway in hopes of alerting a neighbor to the situation.

He then alerted a second neighbor.

At some point in their interaction, Carlson shot Acosta-Sanchez in the arm and then shot him a second time in the head, according to prosecutors.

Carlson was arrested on a second-degree murder charge at the time.

His next court date in April 20. He was in jail on $100,000 bail and not available for comment. Attorney information wasn't immediately available. 

Aykroyd to Help Slain Cop's Kids


Actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd says he'll make a donation to a fund set up for the children of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III.

The "Saturday Night Live" and "Ghostbusters" star made the announcement during an appearance at the Philadelphia Flower Show on Friday. He was at the show promoting his vodka, Crystal Head.

Wilson died Thursday after being gunned down during an attempted robbery at a North Philadelphia GameStop store. The 8-year veteran assigned to the 22nd District was in the store doing a security check and was in the process of buying a game for his 8-year-old son when the gunmen entered.

Police called Wilson a hero who drew away fire from store employees and continued to shoot at both suspects, even after being hit. Two brothers, 30-year-old Carlton Hipps and 26-year-old Ramone Williams, have been charged with the officer's murder.

A trust fund was set up Friday for the 30-year-old officer's two sons, the 8-year-old and a 1-year-old. The fund is being managed by the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union. Donations can be made in person at the following branches:

  • 901 Arch Street
  • 7604 City Avenue
  • 8500 Henry Avenue
  • Leo Mall, Byberry and Bustleton Avenue
  • 7500 Castor Avenue
  • 3300 Grant Avenue

Checks can be mailed and made payable to:

The Robert Wilson III Family Memorial Trust Fund
Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
901 Arch Street
Philadelphia PA, 19107

Photo Credit: Crystal Head Vodka

Bridgeport Murder Victim Robbed Suspect: Police


Police have arrested the man accused of committing Bridgeport's first homicide of 2015 and said the deadly shooting stemmed from a robbery gone wrong.

Karim Skipworth, 37, of Bridgeport, was arrested Friday in connection with the Feb. 20 homicide.

He's accused of shooting and killing 28-year-old Jose Lebron near the intersection of William and Ogden streets.

According to police, the two arranged a meeting during which Lebron robbed Skipworth, stealing his money and phone. Police said they found a BB gun and money in Lebron's hand. They also confiscated drugs and cellphones, one of which belonged to Skipworth.

Police said Skipworth shot Lebron as he ran from the area.

Skipworth has been charged with murder, carrying a pistol without a permit and criminal possession of a firearm. He was held on $1 million bond.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department

Teacher Solicited Child Porn: FBI


A Bronx High School of Science teacher who has earned national acclaim for his work with the school's debate team has been arrested by the FBI on child porn charges, accused of using apps like KIK and Instagram to solicit nude selfies of boys in exchange for money.

Jon Cruz appeared in federal court Friday on charges of producing, distributing and receiving child pornography. According to his bio on the Bronx High School of Science's website, Cruz teaches an advanced placement government and politics class with economics at the school.

Federal prosecutors allege Cruz used the chat app KIK to contact boys both in New York and out of state beginning last July, asking them at first to send him photos of their face and feet, as well as a "thumbs-up selfies," in exchange for hundreds of dollars in gift cards.

Cruz allegedly posed as a 15-year-old or 16-year-old boy who made money building robotics, and he told one of the victims he was a nerd "who had a thing for jocks."

Eventually, Cruz was able to convince one victim in New Mexico to send nude photographs of himself for a $500 gift card. That boy's parents found the gift receipts on their home computer when the boy accidentally left his email open, and they confronted him, prosecutors said.

The boy said he'd gotten $1,600 in gift cards from Cruz, and his parents contacted police.

Cruz initiated contact with another boy in New Mexico after finding him on Instagram, according to the criminal complaint. 

In a KIK conversation with another victim from upstate New York, Cruz allegedly wrote: "Can I keep asking things and asking for specific pix requests? I just want to make sure, the pics are between us, right?"

The 14-year-old boy sent a photo in response and wrote, "Sure but I still know why u need all these pics?"

Cruz said, "Can I be honest. That shirt sums up why you get to take my money. You know?"

The boy replied, "O yah lol"

Cruz wrote: "Pictures just have a huge impact on me. Seeing your feet and face and muscles and room and awards and stuff reinforce what a big deal you are." 

Cruz allegedly told that boy he went to the Dalton School in Manhattan and that he would be moving to the boy's town because his parents "do venture capital and want to invest in upstate New York." 

In another conversation, according to the criminal complaint, Cruz persuaded the boy to send a photo in exchange for $400 to $500, saying, "Redo the point pic please and let me see your bed more close as stuff in your room that shows you're a preppy, popular jock." 

Prosecutors said Cruz used three different IP addresses to access his two KIK accounts. One of the IP addresses was associated with the New York City school system, and used 154 times to access one of the KIK aaccounts. 

Cruz also allegedly used a photo of a former student who graduated in the spring of 2014 in his KIK profile and even set up a fake Facebook profile using the student's photos. That student was a member of the debate team under Cruz, and the two were friends on Facebook, according to the criminal complaint. 

The FBI executed a warrant at Cruz's home Friday morning and found a computer containing photographs of boys posing nude and two cellphones of boys giving "thumbs-up selfies." 

The FBI has identified four victims: two in New Mexico, one of whom sent nude photos; another in upstate New York; and a fourth victim, about 12 or 13 years old, who sent nude photos. 

Cruz has directed the Bronx Science Speech & Debate Team for 10 years, according to the school's website. He has been named the National Speech & Debate Association Coach of the Year, and was awarded the association's Distinguished Service Award four times.

Cruz was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the National Speech & Debate Association and is serving his second term as the president of the New York State Debate Coaches Association.

Cruz is also the faculty adviser to the Bronx Science Gay-Straight Alliance, the school's site says.

Cruz is being held on $1 million bail and has been suspended pending the outcome of the federal investigation.

Cruz's attorney had no comment Friday night. The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

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