Crisis Center employee in Florida accused of sending explicit photos to teen girl

TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida man is accused of sending explicit material, including photos and videos, to a teen who called the Crisis Center hotline where he worked, authorities said.

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Christopher Augusto Laracuente Cotto, 32, of Tampa, was arrested Thursday and charged with transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communications device, according to a news release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Laracuente Cotto, who was terminated from his position, took a call from the girl at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s 211 hotline around 9:30 a.m. EDT on March 28, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The girl left her contact information so that an interventional specialist could return her call, according to the newspaper.

Investigators said the 211 hotline, which is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, is designed for people who are struggling with thoughts of depression, suicide or other mental health issues, WTVT reported. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A short time later after the victim’s call, she received a return telephone call via a recorded line from a man who identified himself as “William,” a counselor at the crisis center, the sheriff’s office said. They spoke for more than an hour, deputies said.

According to the sheriff’s office, Laracuente Cotto later called the victim’s cellphone from the restricted number several times during the day, claiming he was “checking” on her.

“After speaking with that victim over the phone, he then called her from a restricted cellphone number and began asking her very personal questions,” sheriff’s office spokesperson Crystal Clark told WFTS-TV. “He was asking this teenager for her Instagram account, where he then followed her.”

After continuing to communicate with her on Instagram through direct messages and telephone calls, Laracuente Cotto allegedly sent the teen explicit photographs and videos, the sheriff’s office said. He also requested nude photographs of the victim, who refused.

The next day, the victim reported what had happened to a school resource deputy, according to the Times.

“After speaking with that victim over the phone, he then called her from a restricted cellphone number and began asking her very personal questions,” sheriff’s office spokesperson Crystal Clark told WFTS-TV. “He was asking this teenager for her Instagram account, where he then followed her.”

Detectives obtained a subpoena to search Laracuente Cotto’s cellphone and were able to confirm the teen’s account of the interactions, the Times reported. According to the sheriff’s office, Laracuente Cotto confessed after being questioned by detectives.

“I cannot think of anything more despicable than taking advantage of a child during their time of crisis. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement. “This individual abused his power, violated the trust of the victim, and equally as important, he violated the trust of his employer, a well-respected nonprofit organization that helps tens of thousands of people in need every year.”