Jesse Kiesel of Biddeford is scheduled to appear by video conference at the U.S. District Court of Maine in Portland on Monday July 12 in connection with child pornography charges. The education technician was placed on administrative leave from his job at Biddeford Middle School in April. Christopher Williams / Sun Journal file photo

BIDDEFORD — Officials with Biddeford School Department say several actions were immediately taken when they were informed of allegations that a school education technician in its employ had been accused of a federal crime regarding child pornography.

Jesse Kiesel, 48, was arrested and charged July 9 with possession of child pornography and attempting to transmit obscene material to a minor over the internet. He remains in federal custody and is scheduled to appear at the U.S District Court of Maine in Portland by video conference on Monday, July 12.

Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Ray said Kiesel was placed on administrative leave in April.

On Saturday, July 10, the Biddeford School Department issued a news release outlining the steps taken immediately upon learning of the allegations.

The School Department “initiated an internal investigation to ensure that our Biddeford students are safe and to assess whether support services are necessary,” the news release stated. The School Department also notified the Department of Health and Human Services; filed a report with the Maine Department of Education’s fingerprinting and background checks division, and through its attorneys, requested any information relevant to the case from prosecutors and the courts.

Ray told the Portland Press Herald on Friday that he had not received any information that suggests Kiesel had inappropriate contact with any students.

“The Biddeford School Department is fully committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students. We are vigilant in properly vetting any individual who works directly or indirectly with our students,” Ray said in the Saturday news release. “I am unable to comment on personnel matters but can verify the employee passed the Maine Department of Education’s fingerprinting and background check. Immediately upon learning of the allegation, we took the appropriate actions and are cooperating with government agencies, including law enforcement, in their investigation.”

If parents or guardians have any concerns, inquiries should be directed to the Superintendent’s Office at 282-8280, he said.

According to his LinkedIn account, Kiesel has worked at Biddeford Middle School as an education technician since 2017. Ray said he had worked at the School Department some years ago, left, and then returned.

“The School Department immediately took action once apprised of this, are following the situation as it unfolds and will ensure Mr. Kiesel has no contact with our students,” Ray told The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Friday afternoon.

Federal prosecutors allege Kiesel engaged in an internet chat in April with an undercover member of law enforcement who was posing as a 13-year-old girl.

During the chat, Kiesel allegedly steered the conversation towards the topics of sex and sexual contact and transmitted an image of his anatomy to the undercover officer, according to documents on file at the federal court.

Numerous images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct were recovered from his computer following execution of a search warrant at his Biddeford home, the news release issued by the office of the U.S. Attorney said.

Attorney John Webb is representing Kiesel.

“We haven’t seen the evidence yet and haven’t talked to the government yet,” said Webb. “But we will evaluate the case and decide how we are going to proceed.”

According to an affidavit on file with the court filed by Task Force Officer Ronald Phillips of Homeland Security Investigations, a search warrant executed at Kiesel’s home in May turned up a computer that allegedly contained numerous images believed to be of child pornography, including photographs of minor girls in various stages of undress and a video that included a sex act.

In his affidavit, Phillips wrote that Kiesel agreed to a voluntary interview and told investigators he used chat websites to engage in private conversations with juveniles. He allegedly told investigators that children sent explicit images of themselves to him in chats, and when that happened, he ended the conversation. He allegedly admitted to sending an explicit photo of himself to a juvenile “maybe once,” said he has used online chats since the 1990s and that his chats with young people started about a year ago. He allegedly told the investigator he believed he had an addiction. According to the affidavit, Kiesel told the investigator he never acted on “any of that stuff,” and “never hurt anybody.”

An earlier affidavit prepared by Phillips seeking the search warrant noted his department received information that had originated from a foreign law enforcement agency indicating that someone with a specific SnapChat display name had engaged in an online communication with an undercover agent posing as an adolescent girl. The SnapChat name was traced to Kiesel, who used his personal email address as a contact for the account and his school email address as a backup contact, the affidavit stated. He allegedly used a different screen name on another online platform that was administered in Shanghai, China.

If convicted, Kiesel faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each charge.

Biddeford Police Department, Newbury (Massachusetts) Police Department and the United States Marshals Service are assisting Homeland Security Investigations in the case.

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