Volume 22, Number 32 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 18 - 24, 2009
Counselor arrested in child porn case
An after-school counselor at Manhattan Youth was arrested Tuesday morning for downloading child pornography on his home computer.
Michael Dossantos, 22, worked with fourth and fifth graders for the past year and a half at after-school programs at P.S. 89, P.S. 234 and the Downtown Community Center, Manhattan Youth Executive Director Bob Townley said in an e-mail to parents Tuesday afternoon.
“All of this happened externally, as far as we know,” Townley said Wednesday. “It did not involve any Manhattan Youth children or facilities in any way that we know of, but we’re conducting our own investigation.”
Dossantos, of Astoria, is accused of downloading sexually explicit images of children ages 4 to 16 on his home computer, according to Queens District Attorney Robert Brown. Dossantos was arraigned Tuesday night and charged with 10 counts each of promoting a sexual performance by a child and possessing a sexual performance by a child. He was held on a $30,000 bond and will return to court Jan. 19. He faces up to seven years if convicted.
The D.A. said the N.Y.P.D. received a tip about Dossantos in July and started an investigation, which culminated in a search of Dossantos’ home on Tuesday. The D.A. said Dossantos admitted to downloading child pornography for years, with the intention of selling the images. He is not accused of any wrongdoing outside of his home.
Attempts to reach Dossantos and his attorney by press time were unsuccessful.
Townley said in an e-mailed statement that Manhattan Youth screens all employees carefully and that in 20 years, there had never been “any allegations like this” of a staff member.
“We have never had any reason to believe, nor were we ever made aware of any problem with the person in question,” Townley said in a statement. Dossantos will no longer be involved with Manhattan Youth in any way, Townley said.
“This is very troubling news for any parent, as it is for us,” Townley said in an e-mail to parents.
He said staff members are forbidden to ever be alone with a child.
In the e-mail to parents, Townley suggested that parents ask their children if anyone has told them to keep something a secret. Manhattan Youth has set up a special phone line parents can call with questions or information.
— Julie Shapiro