John C. Vastis, 54, knowingly exchanged "sexually charged" messages with a year-old boy for months and admitted to asking the teen for videos of him engaged in sexual acts, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty last June to a single count of accessing child pornography. The victim did not attend the school, and Vastis was not accused of sexually exploiting any students, prosecutors said at the time of his arrest. Under a plea agreement his lawyers reached with prosecutors, Vastis faced a minimum of a little more than 11 years in prison. District Judge John Tharp sentenced Vastis to 13 years.
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Vastis was so highly regarded that he was among the Chicago-area nominees for the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Vastis, 51, of Lakemoor, was arrested at his home early Thursday morning on federal child pornography charges. Prosecutors say Vastis was taken into custody by U. Department of Homeland Security agents as part of an investigation that began nearly two weeks ago. District Superintendent Theresa Dunkin said officials there will fully cooperate with the investigation.
She said Vastis, a year district employee who teaches public speaking, was placed on "investigatory leave" after his arrest. She said parents have been provided tips on how to approach their children with the news.
In , Vastis was one of 1, Chicago-area elementary school teachers nominated for the Golden Apple. Court documents state Vastis is accused of possessing child pornography and coercing a boy, who was 16 at the time, into producing pornographic images and sending them to him.
According to federal prosecutors, the accusations against Vastis surfaced after a search warrant was executed at the home of the boy, now 17, who was suspected of possessing and distributing child pornography. The boy then told federal agents he began communicating with Vastis via online video chat services and text messages starting in September , when he was Agents recovered sexually explicit messages between the boy and someone calling himself "Pete," which prosecutors say was an alias used by Vastis.
Vastis is in federal custody awaiting a bond hearing, prosecutors said. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Casstevens said a tip line has been established for the Vastis case. Callers may leave tips, with their names or anonymously, at , he said.
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