The FBI arrested a San Bernardino middle school teacher Tuesday on suspicion of child pornography for allegedly exchanging sexually explicit photographs with a 13-year-old girl in New Jersey.
Eugene Ballantyne, 29, was taken into custody at his Running Springs home early Tuesday morning.
Ballantyne told investigators that he also received sexually explicit pictures from a 15-year-old girl two years earlier and traveled 180 miles to have sex with a 17-year-old girl in July, according to a FBI affidavit filed in federal court.
Ballantyne, a social studies teacher at Arrowview Middle School, was placed on leave two weeks ago by the San Bernardino City Unified School District. There is no evidence that Ballantyne had illicit contact with students at Arrowview. The district has launched its own investigation.
Ballantyne allegedly contacted the 13-year-old girl in South Brunswick, N.J., in January through an Internet chat room, and authorities say they later corresponded via cellphone and email. Ballantyne used the false name John Baldwin and claimed to be a 25-year-old schoolteacher from Corona, according to the FBI.
The two exchanged sexually explicit photographs using their cellphones, and “Ballantyne was very demanding during phone conversations with the minor victim and persuaded the victim to engage in sexual activity while they conversed,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the FBI office in Los Angeles.
According to the affidavit, in one email Ballantyne told the girl: “It’s really so nice to have you in my life. I only wish you were here so I could really express my feeling to you. It is hard to be so far apart….”
On Jan. 28, the girl’s mother contacted South Brunswick police and reported that illicit emails and pictures were being exchanged between her daughter and a man in California. She provided copies of the girl’s T-Mobile account information to detectives. The girl initially told Ballantyne she was 15, the affidavit stated.
Investigators from the FBI and South Brunswick police were able to track the emails, cellphone conversations and pictures to Ballantyne’s cellphone.
In one of the photos, Ballantyne was wearing a shirt and tie and appeared to be sitting behind a desk in a classroom. The photo included a Google Maps link showing that the picture was taken at Arrowview, according to the affidavit filed by Special Agent Jeffrey R. Stiff.
Ballantyne was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Riverside on Tuesday afternoon.