A teacher who worked at a Ridgewood public school was arrested last week for allegedly exchanging sexually explicit selfies with a teenage girl he used to teach.
Michael Cognato, 35, was brought in by police on Oct. 6 and he was arraigned that evening on a 33-count criminal complaint. The charges included using a child under 17 for a sexual performance, promoting a sexual performance by a minor and possession of sexual performance by a child.
That basically means child porn.
Cognato, previously a math teacher at I.S. 93 on Forest Avenue, faces up to 15 years behind bars if convicted, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown
“The charges are very troublesome,” Brown said in a statement on Friday night. “A teacher is accused of preying on a young student he had once been entrusted to teach. A classroom should always be a safe place for a child. If true, this teacher destroyed his former student’s trust.”
Prosecutors said the girl had been in Cognato’s eighth-grade class. After she graduated from I.S. 93, Cognato allegedly continued to tutor her in advanced math. The two stayed close during the next school year, as he communicated with her through Facebook and Skype.
This June, police said, Cognato allegedly contacted the victim through Snapchat and sent several pictures of himself without a shirt. Later, he began engaging in sexually explicit conversations with her and would send her several naked pictures of himself.
The following month, the DA noted, Cognato allegedly began sending the victim videos of himself doing different sexual acts. Between Aug. 15 and Sept. 29, Cognato allegedly sent the girl 15 graphic videos of himself. She sent back other videos that she made at his request.
The girl’s mother contacted police when she learned what was going on. Members of the NYPD Queens Special Victims Squad arrested Cognato following an investigation.
“These alleged actions are deeply disturbing and have absolutely no place in our schools,” a Department of Education spokesperson told QNS. “This individual was immediately removed from the school and reassigned away from students.”
This post originally appeared on QNS.com