NEW CASTLE (Feb. 3, 2014) – A man who counseled at-risk students is accused of providing marijuana to some of the youth he counseled and using a hidden camera to record nude images of them.
Darrell Hughes, 55, Muncie, faces a count of sexual exploitation and two counts of attempting to sexually exploit a minor. The charges follow a joint federal-local investigation involving the U.S. Attorney’s Office and its Operation Community Watch. The charges were outlined Monday by U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett during a news conference in Delaware County.
On Jan. 14, detectives with the New Castle Police Department received information regarding the sexual exploitation of a minor by an employee of the local school system. Hughes was identified as a suspect after an investigation by local officials and Homeland Security.
According to the criminal complaint, five male victims had interactions with Hughes dating back to 2008. All of the males struggled with disciplinary issues at school and some spent time in the state’s juvenile justice system. They came into contact with Hughes, who served as a middle and high school counselor for the New Castle alternative school commonly referred to as “North Campus.”
In one case, the victim said Hughes gave him cigarettes and money at school. Outside of school, he told investigators Hughes provided him with marijuana and alcohol. At one point, the victim said Hughes asked him to sleep in his bed and took pictures of him, telling him he could make “a lot of money” as a model.
“It is alleged [Hughes] had them strip nearly naked to take photographs he promised would help launch their modeling careers,” said U.S. Attorney, Joe Hogsett.”He allowed them to take showers at his home where it is alleged he had rigged up an elaborate system of hidden cameras to capture their every move.”
The victim said Hughes urged him to take showers under the guise of removing the scent of marijuana. While the victim was taking a shower, Hughes would sit at his computer. The victim said Hughes hid cameras inside clocks and watches, using them to capture images of them in various states of undress. One of the victims said Hughes gave him massages and also provided him with Ecstasy. Another victim said he believes he was the victim of a sexual assault, according to court documents.
All the victims told similar stories in which Hughes befriended them and provided them with gifts in addition to cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol, according to court documents.
Investigators served a federal search warrant at Hughes’ house and found a memory card hidden in a plant in the bathroom. Forensic analysis showed the memory card had images and videos showing a nude male entering and exiting the shower. Investigators also found two video-capable wristwatches with additional evidence.
“I knew something was going on, I just didn’t know what it was,” said Andrew Saxon, who lives next door. “I had no idea it would be this.”
New Castle Community Schools Superintendent, Stephen Fisher, tells Fox 59 Hughes has been suspended without pay. Parents received a voice-mail from Fisher regarding allegations against Hughes.
“It’s very disturbing to know someone who you trust with your kids in school all day is accused of something like that,” said Andrea Boggs, whose two children attend New Castle Community Schools. “How do you get away with that?’
According to prosecutors, Hughes faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.