A former Portland school employee has pleaded not guilty to federal sex crimes against a student.

Benjamin Conroy, 32, is accused of sexually exploiting a child in the classroom at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, where he worked as an education technician for students on the autism spectrum.

Portland Public Schools initially put Conroy on unpaid administrative leave after he was charged with unlawful sexual contact for allegedly exposing himself to a woman on the Western Promenade. The investigation that followed led to additional charges in state and federal court related to the student. A district spokeswoman said Conroy was terminated Oct. 27. The Maine Department of Education had already revoked his state education technician credential.

Conroy had a brief appearance in federal court earlier this month, but he was not required to enter a plea at that time. The grand jury indicted him on Nov. 18 on one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of transportation of child pornography. He is currently in custody at the Cumberland County Jail, and his hearing on Tuesday took place via Zoom. He did not speak except to enter his plea and to answer the questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich.

The arraignment did not reveal any new information about the case, or any details of allegations of abuse of two other students briefly mentioned in an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of Maine in Portland. It is not yet clear if Conroy will face additional charges related to other children.

The affidavit states Conroy worked with children on the autism spectrum for more than eight years, both in homes and in schools.


Portland Public Schools hired Conroy this summer. The district said he previously worked for Casa, which provides behavioral health support to schools, and before that for Regional School Unit 22 in Hampden and Regional School Unit 2 in Hallowell.

When the Portland Police Department announced Conroy’s arrest in October, Superintendent Xavier Botana promised an internal investigation. A district spokeswoman said Tuesday that she did not have any update on that effort.

Police arrested Conroy on Oct. 13. He was charged first in state court with sexual exploitation of a minor, dissemination of sexually explicit material and possession of sexually explicit material. The federal charges followed later in October. The affidavit filed in federal court details the allegations against him.

It says Portland police received a citizen’s report on Oct. 5 about alleged unlawful sexual acts revealed in photos on the Grindr dating app. The report included photos of an adult man exposing his genitals in public and others that showed what appeared to be the arm of a young child performing a sexual act.

On Oct. 8, officers responded to the call about a man on the Western Promenade who had shoved his genitals in a woman’s face and pushed her. Police issued Conroy a summons for that incident, and an officer questioned him about the photos from the dating app. The affidavit says Conroy admitted he was the man in some of the pictures, but denied any knowledge of the photos of the child. The officer learned Conroy worked at Ocean Avenue, and a parent there identified the child in the photos as her daughter. Police arrested Conroy the next day on the state charges.

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