A Pasco County assistant principal was arrested Tuesday on federal child pornography charges stemming from a U.S. Homeland Security investigation.
Kyle Ritsema, 35, of Land O' Lakes, who works at Cypress Creek Middle High School, is facing charges for possessing, creating and distributing child pornography.
He appeared in a U.S. District Court in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the federal criminal complaint, an investigation into another individual involving child porn revealed a series of text messages sent between that person and Ritsema. Federal investigators say the texts were exchanged over a span between 2014 and 2016.
The two texted about their shared sexual interests in children, federal investigators say, and the texts grew increasingly explicit.
In March 2015, Ritsema texted nude images of a 14-year-old boy to the other person, the affidavit said.
A search warrant was served and Ritsema was interviewed by federal agents at the school on Tuesday.
Ritsema told investigators he had texted the other person, and the two would watch videos together, according to the criminal complaint. Ritsema recalled one video which featured a boy that “was maybe 5 years old,” according to a detective’s sworn affidavit.
He also admitted to taking photos of the boy, who he said told him he was 18, according to the affidavit, and Ritsema told investigators he and the boy had "hooked up."
Investigators spoke to the boy, who is now 17. The teen said he did not know Ritsema took the photos.|
What remains unclear is why Homeland Security is involved in the investigation. Requests for further clarification from the U.S. Attorney's Office have not been returned.
Arrest records show Ritsema has a clean criminal background before these federal charges. He was arrested at his home on Tuesday.
The Pasco County school district informed families of Ritsema’s arrest Tuesday evening through a robocall:
"Good evening Coyotes. Earlier today, one of our assistant principals, Mr. Ritsema, was taken into custody on federal charges. He has been placed on paid administrative leave as law enforcement’s investigation continues. The district has been notified that law enforcement’s concerns are not related to our students, school or the school district. At this time, I have no additional information to share. And as pertinent developments occur, I will share them with you. Thank you."
Ritsema has been employed by the Pasco County School District since 2006. He was also employed by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) between 2009 and 2013, according to the criminal complaint.
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