Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former Vineland elementary school teacher who was a stage manager for a summer theater camp pleaded guilty today to charges that he took an explicit photo of a young school student and manufactured explicit images of a minor by hiding a camera in restrooms at the theater camp to record underage boys.
Officials say Thomas Guzzi Jr., 39, of Pitman, pleaded guilty today to official misconduct, manufacturing explicit images of a minor, and distribution of 25 or more files of explicit images of a minor, all second-degree charges, before Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Guzzi receive an aggregate sentence of 17 years in prison, including 10 years of parole ineligibility.
He must register as an offender under Megan’s Law and will be subject to parole supervision for life. He will be permanently barred from public employment.
Guzzi is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 27.
Guzzi formerly taught 5th grade at Winslow Elementary School and was an advisor and stage manager for youth productions at the school and the Broadway Theatre of Pitman. In pleading guilty, Guzzi admitted that he captured images and videos of teenage boys urinating in restrooms at the summer theater camp in Pitman.
He admitted that he manufactured explicit images of a minor with the footage, creating a music video of one boy that had images and video of the boy urinating edited together with video recordings of him dancing in rehearsals for the summer musical production. In pleading guilty to official misconduct, Guzzi admitted that while teaching in a summer program at a second school in Vineland, he took a photo of a boy exposing his genitals.
Deputy Attorneys General Rachael Weeks, Derek Miller, and John Nicodemo prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, and DAsG Weeks and Miller took the guilty plea from Guzzi, who was scheduled to go to trial this week.
Guzzi was arrested in 2016 in “Operation Safeguard,” a minor explicit image sweep conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the New Jersey State Police. Guzzi had hundreds of files of explicit images of minors on computers seized from his home during execution of a search warrant on Feb. 19, 2016.
He was terminated by the school district and his teaching license was revoked after his arrest.
“Like many minor predators, Guzzi sought out positions of trust in which children were placed under his supervision,” said Attorney General Grewal. “He then callously violated that trust by photographing and videotaping young boys for his gratification, including a vulnerable student at a school where he taught. With this guilty plea, Guzzi is facing justice for so heinously betraying the innocent children who were entrusted to his care.”
“Whenever we arrest offenders on explicit minor image charges, we thoroughly investigate to determine whether there may be hands-on criminal conduct against children,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Guzzi illustrates why we do that. His collection of hundreds of files of explicit minor images was just the tip of an iceberg that also included the stalking and filming of underage teenage boys for his gratification.”
“Explicit images of a minor robs children of their innocence and further exploits them when these images are shared online,” said Jeff Kocher, Resident Agent in Charge, Cherry Hill Homeland Security Investigations. “HSI will continue to aggressively pursue these minor predators and work as in this case with other law enforcement partners.”
During Operation Safeguard, special agents of Homeland Security Investigations and detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit monitored online file-sharing networks that are popular with offenders who download and share these explicit images of minors. Using advanced technology, the investigators searched for digital “fingerprints” of known explicit images of minors, as well as search terms used by such offenders.
Through these and other methods, they identified New Jersey residents who were downloading these images and making these explicit images of minors available to others in “shared folders” on their computers.
Guzzi was arrested on Feb. 19, 2016, when detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice executed a search warrant at his residence. A special agent from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations previously had downloaded three videos of explicit images of a minor from a shared folder at an IP address traced to Guzzi and had referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice.
During the search, detectives seized computer equipment belonging to Guzzi, including desktop, laptop and tablet computers, as well as external hard drives. A forensic preview of the laptop revealed not only explicit images of minors, but also a video showing Guzzi installing a camera in a public restroom and a man then using the restroom.
Subsequent full forensic examinations of Guzzi’s computer devices revealed video recordings of multiple boys and adult men using restrooms. The investigation revealed that the videos were captured by Guzzi using a hidden camera placed in two restrooms, one backstage at the Broadway Theater in Pitman, and a second connected to a rehearsal space across the street from the main theater building.
Neither restroom was open to the general public. Investigators also discovered that Guzzi not only surreptitiously videotaped children and adults using those restrooms during the 2015 summer theater camp program, but he also created the explicit music video and photo montages using video footage from the restrooms of two underage boys whose identities were determined through the investigation.
The explicit photos and video recordings used in the music video and montages were culled from about three hours of restroom footage recorded during the summer camp program. Investigators located more than 300 files of explicit images of a minor on Guzzi’s computer devices.
Deputy Attorneys General Nicodemo and Weeks, former Detective Tiffany Lenart, former Detective Laura Hurley, Detective Richard DaSilva and Detective Charles Pusloski investigated the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, in collaboration with HSI agents. Analyst Nathalie Kurzawa provided extensive assistance in preparing the case.
Attorney General Grewal thanked HSI Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael. He also thanked the Pitman Police Department, as well as the staff of the Broadway Theatre of Pitman, who cooperated fully and provided valuable assistance throughout the investigation.