MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A campus monitor and part-time basketball coach at Martin County High School was arrested Friday, accused of soliciting teenage girls.
Alton Edwards, 28, is facing charges after the Martin County Sheriff's office said he paid female students to send him nude pictures.
Sheriff William Snyder said it appears most of the girls he solicited were about 15 or 16 years old.
He said his detectives received an anonymous tip that Edwards was soliciting pictures from students on Snapchat.
Detectives said they have spoken with seven girls who admit to sending the suspect nude pictures from $10 to $75. They said he could have potentially paid hundreds of dollars for photos.
"It looks like his major (modus operandi) would be to find the girls on Snapchat, take a look at their friends and then just start probing," Snyder said. "Really, it's grooming. He finds a child who might be more vulnerable and he gets them to send pictures of them unclothed and sends them cash."
Detectives said it might be hard to recover the photos from Snapchat since images disappear after they're viewed. However, they said they will work with Snapchat to try to recover them.
"Our theory is that he probably [took a] screenshot, saved some of those pictures, and that when we serve the search warrant, we will find them on his camera," Snyder said.
Investigators said they have other evidence in the case, including victim statements and proof of transactions. Snyder also said what's concerning is that this seemed to be a known secret among many students for years, but no one spoke up until last week.
"Go to your child tonight and say, 'I want to look in your camera and look at every single app that can hide pictures,'" Snyder said. "If your children have Snapchat, go home tonight and delete it."
The sheriff fears there are likely more victims.
The school district confirms Edwards was hired in 2016.
He will make his first appearance in court Saturday.
The school district said Edwards has been moved to a position working from home, so he is not in contact with children while the investigation continues.
Below is the full message sent to Martin County families and employees Friday:
Earlier this week, the Martin County School District and Martin County Sheriff’s Office were made aware of a very serious and concerning allegation about a Martin County High School security guard who also served as an assistant athletics coach. Immediately upon receipt of this anonymous tip, the employee in question was removed from campus and all duties that would allow him any contact with students. Both agencies immediately began their respective investigations.
This morning, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office arrested this employee and charged him with seven (7) counts of online solicitation of a minor. While MCSO does not believe that there is cause for safety-related concern on the part of the majority of families, those who believe their child may have had inappropriate, illegal contact or been exposed to inappropriate, illegal requests for photos/videos from this individual are encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 772-220-7000. This employee will not be permitted to return to any duties that would allow him contact with students while the District’s due process procedures continue.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office and Martin County School District appreciate the continued support of our community as we work collaboratively to keep our students, employees and schools safe. Families continue to be encouraged to speak with students about the importance of practicing the “see something, say something” rule and reporting any suspicious activity they notice to a trusted adult.