A high school security guard and part-time basketball coach in a school district located along the southeastern coast of Florida has been arrested for allegedly requesting nude photos from underage girls on a social media app and then paying them up to $75 in exchange.
According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, Alton Edwards has harassed several teenage girls by contacting them on the social media platform Snapchat and soliciting naked pictures of them. He then paid the teenagers anywhere from $5 to $75 per image. Police believe that most of the girls Edwards contacted are either 15 or 16 years old. At least seven teenagers have come forward and claimed that they participated in Edwards’ scheme.
However, police believe that there are likely more victims out there. Reports say that Edwards, who has been working for Martin County School District since 2016, has been preying on teenage girls for years. Sheriff William Snyder characterized Edwards’ behavior as an open secret that no one reported until police received an anonymous tip earlier this month.
“Seems, honestly, like he was expecting to get arrested,” Snyder stated, “and he was not shocked by it.”
Martin County High school monitor accused of paying teenage girls for nude photos
The nature of Snapchat makes collecting evidence tricky. Pictures on Snapchat appear briefly then quickly disappear. However, police believe that Edwards used screen so that he could continue to access the nude photos.
“Our theory is that he probably [took a] screenshot, saved some of those pictures, and that when we serve the search warrant, we will find them on his camera,” Snyder stated. Snyder added that police have also been working with Snapchat to recover the images as well.
Edwards, who is either 27 or 28 years old, was arrested on Friday and charged with seven counts of solicitation of a minor. He is being held on $350,000 bail.
“He finds a child who might be more vulnerable, and he gets them to send pictures of them unclothed and sends them cash,” Snyder stated.
“Really, it’s grooming,” Snyder claimed.
Snyder also advised all parents to monitor their children’s social media activity diligently.
“Go to your child tonight and say, ‘I want to look in your camera and look at every single app that can hide pictures,'” Snyder said. “If your children have Snapchat, go home tonight and delete it.”
Martin County School District has released a statement following Edwards’ arrest, informing parents that Edwards has since been “removed from campus and all duties that would allow him any contact with students” and that “MCSO does not believe that there is cause for safety-related concern on the part of the majority of families.”