HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A former Crisis Center of Tampa Bay employee was arrested after he allegedly sent an explicit photograph to a teen who was using the 211 hotline.
According to a press release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the teen called the hotline and spoke with Christopher Augusto Laracuente Cotto, 32, a call taker who had been employed at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for approximately two months according to the Center.
Following a call that lasted more than an hour, the teenager received another call from a restricted number. The girl would tell authorities she recognized the voice as the employee she had just spoken with.
According to the victim, Cotto called the victim’s cellphone from the restricted number multiple times throughout the day claiming to check on her. Cotto then asked for the girl’s Instagram username and sent the teen explicit photos and videos, in addition to requesting photos of her, which she did not provide.
The following day the teen reported the incident to a school resource officer.
In addition to working at the Crisis Center, Cotto also served as a volunteer worship leader at Iglesia Adoración Y Palabra Jesucristo Es El Señor in Wesley Chapel, according to church pastors.
Cotto confessed his actions to law enforcement, deputies said.
“I cannot think of anything more despicable than taking advantage of a child during their time of crisis. 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 non-profit organization that helps tens of thousands of people in need every year,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “I strongly believe this individual is in no way a reflection of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay or the profoundly positive impact the center has made on the lives of children and adults in our community through the 211 hotline. I do not believe this incident should prevent anyone who is struggling from turning to the Crisis Center for help, and we continue to encourage our residents to do so.”
According to a statement obtained by WFLA, the Crisis Center said Cotto passed both his local law enforcement and Level 2 background checks before he was hired and was an employee of the organization for less than 60 days. He was terminated following his arrest.
“We are deeply saddened by the actions of this former employee but thankful the victim had a resource available in the community that protected them. We are so sorry that a vulnerable person was hurt because it goes directly against what we work for every day.” said Clara Reynolds, President & CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
Cotto was arrested on charges of transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. He has been terminated from the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
Detectives ask anyone who thinks they may be a victim of Cotto’s to contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 812-247-8200.