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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 3, 2014

Central Indiana School Official Charged As Part Of U.s. Attorney’s Operation Community Watch

Allegations include use of hidden cameras inside of home to capture images of minor victims

MUNCIE – Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today that Darrell Hughes, age 55, of Muncie, has been charged by criminal complaint with one count of sexual exploitation and two counts of attempting to sexually exploit a minor. This follows a joint federal-local investigation as part of the U.S. Attorney’s ongoing Operation Community Watch.

“The criminal complaint in this case describes a disturbing pattern of predatory behavior from a school official who allegedly targeted the most vulnerable young people under his care,” Hogsett said. “Thanks to a great investigative team that stretched across jurisdictional lines, we have ended this abuse. We urge others who may have had interactions with the defendant to contact law enforcement immediately.”

Hogsett said those with information regarding the defendant can confidentially contact law enforcement at the New Castle Police Department.

“This case is particularly troubling given the defendant’s position as a counselor working with at-risk youth,” said Gary Woolf, Resident Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Indianapolis. “Mr. Hughes allegedly betrayed the trust placed in him by his employer, this community, and most importantly, by the very children he was supposedly helping.”

The criminal complaint alleges that on January 15, 2014, detectives with the New Castle Police Department received information regarding the sexual exploitation of a minor by an employee of the local school system. After additional investigation by local officials and agents with Homeland Security Investigations, law enforcement was able to identify school counselor Darrell Hughes as a suspect.

The complaint describes allegations related to five male victims who had interactions with Hughes dating back to 2008. All five of the alleged victims struggled with disciplinary issues at school, with some of the victims having spent time incarcerated in one of the state’s juvenile justice programs. Because of this, they allegedly came into contact and began interacting with Hughes, who served as a middle and high school counselor.

In the case of Victim 1, Hughes allegedly began regularly providing the boy with cigarettes and money at school, followed by interactions outside of school that included the use of marijuana and alcohol. Hughes allegedly began inviting Victim 1 to spend the night at his Muncie home, where Victim 1 was asked to sleep in the same bed as the defendant. Victim 1 also alleges that Hughes took pictures of him in various states of undress, which the victim was told would be used to make him “a lot of money” as a model.

The criminal complaint also alleges that while staying at the defendant’s home, Victim 1 was urged to take showers, purportedly in order to remove the smell of marijuana. Hughes would allegedly tell the victim to wait so that he could “get the bathroom ready,” at which point Victim 1 would be allowed to take a shower. The complaint alleges that when these interactions would take place, Hughes could be found later sitting at his computer.

The complaint alleges that four other minor victims shared similar experiences to Victim 1, and in at least one instance, a minor victim located what they believed to be a hidden camera inside of the bathroom after they were asked to go shower. These cameras were allegedly hidden within clocks and/or watches, and were directed to capture images of the minors undressing and entering the shower. Other victims also allege they received massages from Hughes, were given the drug Ecstasy on some occasions, and in at least one case, the victim alleges that he awoke from what he believes was a sexual assault by Hughes.

A federal search warrant served at the Hughes household allegedly revealed a hidden memory card within a plant in the home’s bathroom. An initial forensic analysis of that memory card has allegedly revealed images and videos depicting a nude minor victim entering and exiting the shower. Law enforcement also alleges they have located two video-capable wristwatches with additional evidence.

According to Senior Litigation Counsel Steven D. DeBrota, who is prosecuting the case for the government, Hughes faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine if convicted. DeBrota said the case would not have been possible without the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, the Henry County and Delaware County Prosecutors, the Hamilton County Metropolitan Child Exploitation Task Force, the New Castle Police Department, and the Muncie Police Department.

This arrest comes as Hogsett has announced a comprehensive crackdown on child exploitation in Indiana known as "Operation Community Watch," which allows prosecutors and investigators to use cutting-edge techniques to identify and charge people in Hoosier communities who are engaged in the receipt and trafficking of child pornography materials.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a larger nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Hogsett pointed out that in the last Project Safe Childhood reporting year, the Office prosecuted 65 cases, a dramatic increase over prior years. These are all-time records for the Office.

Led nationally by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Informations, indictments, and criminal complaints are only a charge and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated January 26, 2015