A social studies teacher at Gorton Junior High in Warwick was arrested Friday on child porn and indecent solicitation charges, the Rhode Island State Police said in a news release.
“Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner of Public Safety, announces that on Friday, February 28, 2014, members of the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force arrested Thomas L. Hewes, age 52, of 64 Verdant Drive, Cranston, for the alleged crimes of Indecent Solicitation of a Child, Transfer of Child Pornography and Possession of Child Pornography. Mr. Hewes is currently a social studies teacher at Gorton Junior High School in Warwick.”
Hewes was arrested after an investigation initiated by a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Their CyberTipline reported that a Meetme.com user with a profile as a 16-year-old girl was soliciting sexual images from underage boys. The State Police Computer Crimes Unit and ICAC Task Force led to the issuance of a court-authorized search of Hewes’ residence at 64 Verdant Drive in Cranston. The task force seized two computers, an iPhone, an iPad and 24 USB flash drives they found hidden behind a dropped ceiling in the basement that held images and videos of alleged child pornography.
“We had information that the hard drives existed,” said Detective Commander Major Todd E. Catlow, “so we were looking for them.”
Hewes was arraigned in Third District Court and was released on $10,000 personal recognizance, with special conditions prohibiting Internet use and contact with children. This investigation is ongoing and will include a full forensic examination of the seized digital media. At this point, no local victims have been identified.
When asked how the task force finds the real addresses of suspects, Major Catlow said, “I’m not so sure I want people to know how we do it.”
The Rhode Island ICAC Task Force is comprised of members of the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit along with detectives from the Coventry, Warwick, Pawtucket, Jamestown, Woonsocket and North Kingstown Police Departments; along with Portsmouth Police. Bristol Police and agents from Homeland Security and United States Postal Inspection Services.