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Portland Public Schools employee accused of sharing sexually explicit photo of child, public sexual assault

Police say Conroy shared a photo through an online dating platform showing a child engaged in a sexual act, and the photo involves a student at the school

PORTLAND, Maine — An Ocean Avenue Elementary employee is facing charges for multiple alleged sex crimes. Police said the arrest stems from two separate investigations, one into pictures of a child engaged in a sex act in what appeared to be a school, and another into a man who allegedly exposed himself to a woman near the Western Promenade. 

According to a release from Portland police, Benjamin Conroy, 32, of Portland was arrested on Oct. 13 and is currently being held at the York County Jail on $25,000 cash bail.

Conroy has been charged with the following:

  • Sexual exploitation of a minor, class A
  • Dissemination of sexually explicit material, class B
  • Possession of sexually explicit material, class C
  • Unlawful sexual contact, class D 

Portland police said a citizen of the city reported on Oct. 5 that a man had shared "disturbing images" through an online dating platform. Police said some of the photos appeared to have been taken in public locations in the city and one appeared to show a child engaged in a sexual act. According to police, the background suggested the location could have possibly been inside a school. Portland Public Schools confirmed in a letter to the community Thursday that the victim is a student in the Beach K-1 classroom.  

On Oct. 8, a 31-year-old woman reported to police that a man exposed himself to her while she was walking near the Western Promenade. She told police she walked away but when she got near the intersection with Pine Street, the man allegedly approached her again and pressed against her while exposing himself.

The suspect, later identified as Conroy, was located in the area of Vaughan and Carroll Streets. Witnesses to the incident followed him to this area and flagged down an officer that was in the area looking for him.

At that time, police said Conroy was taken into custody, charged with unlawful sexual contact, and issued a summons to appear in court.

Once it was determined that Conroy was an employee of the Portland Public Schools, investigators began to look into whether or not the photo provided to Portland police on Oct. 5 could have been from Conroy’s place of employment.

Because of the incident that occurred on Oct. 8, the school department immediately placed Conroy on administrative leave and prohibited him from being on any school property and contacting students, family members, or staff, according to police.

Since Oct. 9, Portland police have been working with employees of Portland Public Schools to identify a possible victim and the location of the incident, officials said.

“Crimes like these are especially traumatic for the victim and their family, the investigating officers, and our community as a whole,” Interim Portland Police Chief Heath Gorham said. “This arrest would not have been possible without the assistance of the citizen who first reported the troubling images to us and for the witnesses that stepped in to help the female victim who screamed for help.”

The Portland Police Department and Portland Public Schools are offering support services to the school community.

“What we understand has occurred is contrary to our top priority of ensuring all our students are in a safe and supportive environment at all times when they are in our care,” Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana said. “In addition to assisting law enforcement with their investigation, we are also conducting our own internal investigation to determine what occurred and to understand any changes we should put in place. We are committed to conducting a full review and doing everything in our power to ensure that nothing like this will happen again.”

Portland police said anyone with information that could help them with this case should call 207-874-8575.

Watch Botana's full interview below: