Armed with a search warrant, detectives knocked on the
front door of Anthony Correnti's West Islip home in the middle of the night
two-and-a-half months ago. A parent had found sexually explicit photos sent by
Correnti, 26, to her 13-year-old daughter, and they were there to check it out.
Their first discovery, they said, was a brown envelope, stuffed with 20 to
30 Polaroids of naked teenage girls. As they began gathering up floppy disks
and CDs, they stumbled upon a letter from the state. It identified Correnti as
"Oh, Jesus, we've got a problem here," Suffolk Det. Rory Forrestal said he
Taken back to police headquarters, Correnti's two computers yielded
hundreds, then thousands, of images. Children as young as 4 years old,
performing sex acts on adult men, more than 10,000 images and 500 video clips
in all. But it was a cache of more than a hundred text files-categorized by
girls' names-that caught their attention.
"That was our major evidence," said Det. Frank Giardina, the lead
investigator on the case.
The computerized inventory of girls in various stages of electronic
courtship and seduction, authorities said, was the road map for an
investigation that would span three counties and rack up 138 counts of sexual
misconduct with children against the former music teacher and sometime rock
musician. Last Friday, Correnti was arraigned on the latest charges, six counts
of statutory rape and sodomy in Nassau County. Correnti, who is being held at
the county jail on $300,000 bail, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His
family and attorney, Frank Maffei of Bay Shore, have declined to comment.
The files represented a catalog of sorts, containing hundreds of online
chat sessions over several years with more than a hundred girls, carefully cut
from America Online chat rooms and electronically pasted into the text files
for safekeeping. Through the files, detectives began to piece together how this
unassuming choral and band teacher had coaxed, flattered and eventually
befriended a slew of underage girls, sometimes taking as long as two years, and
skillfully led them into sexual relationships.
Police estimate Correnti had contact with some 1,800 young women online and
say that some victims probably have not yet been identified. At least four
girls in the Polaroids still have not been found.
Suffolk detectives called Correnti a "classic computer pedophile," patient,
empathetic and consumed by a desire for underage children.
The technique used by pedophiles is no great mystery. "They essentially
seduce children exactly the same way men and women have been seducing each
other since the dawn of mankind," said Kenneth Lanning, a retired FBI agent who
was the agency's top psychological profiler of child molesters.
"They're basically engaged in the age-old practice of buttering up," said
Steven Bisbie, a psychologist from Takoma Park, Md., who studies molesters.
Correnti, along with his younger brother, grew up in West Islip, in the
same home on Kurzon Road that police would later raid to seize his computer and
arrest him. His parents divorced years ago, and he shared the home recently
with his father. His brother moved to Florida.
At West Islip High School, Correnti was on the swim team as a freshman and
played several other sports but found his passion in music. He sang in chorus
all four years and was heavily involved in orchestra and jazz band, playing
Outside of school, he dabbled in rock bands with friends, writing lyrics,
playing guitar and keyboards and singing. With his long hair and affinity for
hair and metal bands, like Motley Crue and Poison, Correnti fit the role of
rock musician well.
Acquaintances described him as well-liked and with plenty of friends,
although not necessarily "popular" according to the school's social hierarchy.
But among women, according to several classmates, Correnti had a reputation for
After graduating from West Islip in 1992, Correnti enrolled at Wagner
College on Staten Island and graduated with a degree in music education. In
1997, he started working for the Manhattan High School for Environmental
Studies, a magnet school in Manhattan, as a choir and band teacher.
In Manhattan, he interviewed with the head of the music department, an
assistant principal and the principal. A school source said Correnti proved
himself to be competent in his interviews but did not necessarily overwhelm.
But Correnti established himself as a "good" teacher and gave "brilliant
concerts," said retired principal Alex Corbluth. Correnti led the school choirs
in rousing performances of Gershwin and other composers in the classical
American repertoire, Corbluth said.
He also was asked to teach journalism when the adviser for the school
paper, The Eagle, left. Correnti, again, did a solid job, Corbluth said.
"He was a decent teacher and seemed to be a decent human being," Corbluth
During summers, Correnti worked as a lifeguard at Splish Splash, the water
theme park in Riverhead. Police said they have no evidence of misconduct at the
In February 1999, a 17-year-old student went to her guidance counselor to
report that Correnti, her journalism teacher, was sexually harassing her.
According to a subsequent report from New York City Special Commissioner of
Investigations Ed Stancik's Office, which looked into the incident, the
student said she had been talking with Correnti, when the conversation turned
to pornography on the Internet. The student told Correnti she had a
pornographic video she made with her boyfriend. Correnti told her that he had
nude photographs of himself.
Correnti repeatedly harassed the student about seeing the video and offered
to give her a grade of 100 in exchange, the report stated.
Correnti admitted to investigators that he had a conversation with two
students about Internet porn and that he had asked about a home video of the
student but said he was only joking.
The report, dated July 12, 1999, concluded that Correnti should be
terminated because his behavior was clearly inappropriate for a teacher and
that he did not know how to conduct himself with students.
Unknown to the investigators and administrators at the time, Correnti had
already done much worse, prosecutors said. He had started having sex with one
of his journalism students in November 1998, arranging for encounters in the
school's band room instrument closet and in an auditorium closet, they said. He
videotaped an encounter he had with her and another 14-year-old journalism
student, together, in a band instrument closet in February 1999, they said.
Investigators later found this videotape with the Polaroids in his home.
Correnti resigned from the High School for Environmental Studies in
September, before he could be fired. The difference proved crucial.
In August, before he resigned, he had started interviewing with the Seaford
School District on the South Shore of Nassau County. He brought with him
several glowing letters of recommendation, along with a videotape of one of his
concerts that impressed the district's director of music, said Superintendent
When administrators checked his references, they returned only positive
comments without a mention of Stancik's investigation into Correnti's conduct,
"We really have to rely on people from other places to be honest," he said.
A Manhattan school source, however, said that school officials had received
no information about the investigation's outcome, even though it was
essentially completed in July. In the absence of a clear outcome, school
officials elected not to mention the investigation.
"Sometimes allegations against a teacher are supported," the source said.
"Other times, they have no grounds, but they still do damage."
But experts said the Manhattan school's reaction was typical of a pervasive
problem in education circles, a practice critics deride as "passing the trash."
"[Pedophiles] leave because they know the authorities will let it drop if
they're gone," said Bisbie, the psychologist.
Charol Shakeshaft, a Hofstra University professor who has studied child
molestation in schools for more than a decade, found in a 1994 survey of nearly
200 school district superintendents across New York that 221 teachers had
quietly resigned or retired from their districts after a report of sexual abuse.
"The predominant response was they would kind of bargain with the person,
'If you retire, or if you leave, we won't say anything about it,'" she said.
At Seaford High School, Correnti served as an assistant vocal director,
mostly giving voice lessons to small groups of students. He was known as a hip
teacher, one with a casual style and little use for structure.
"He was a musician," said PTA President Maureen La Sala, whose two
daughters took chorus with Correnti. "So he was not like an English teacher. He
was a little avant-garde."
But Correnti again ran into problems. He resigned in March 2000 after a
racy online chat between him and a Seaford student was found in the school by a
teacher and turned over to administrators, according to police and
acquaintances. Melucci declined to comment on the specifics of the charges
He was reported by the district to the State Department of Education.
The state had previously investigated the Manhattan incident, along with
the city, but deemed the case lacking in sufficient evidence, said Tom Dunn, a
spokesman for the state Education Department. Taken together, the two
complaints represented a pattern of behavior that warranted license revocation,
No one with state or with the school district notified police.
Bandmates from Action Jackson, a cover band in which Correnti played guitar
and keyboard and sang backup vocals last year, recalled Correnti being
depressed after he left Seaford. He moped about between sets, seldom
socializing. Instead, he would go to a corner and take out a biography to read.
They recalled him reading about Abraham Lincoln and Charlie Chaplin.
Correnti alternated between giddiness and depression, they said. "He
actually cried a couple times at shows," said a band member who asked not to be
He claimed he had been set up in his run-in with Seaford school
administrators, that the girl had been flirting with him. He told his friends
that he wanted to reapply for his teaching license in a few years.
Correnti seemed to have few interests, except music and computers, the band
member said. Correnti designed Action Jackson's Web page and included a link
to a site for the porn star Ron Jeremy. Band members said they thought he was
only downloading Napster tunes with all the hours he seemed to spend online.
"In hindsight, there were little clues here and there," the bandmate said.
But "nothing screamed this guy is a...chester molester."
Correnti had been dating a 17-year-old girl, who the band members teased
him about, calling him a "cradle robber." But they dismissed the relationship
as nothing serious, he said.
The 17-year-old, who police said was actually 16, was a girl to whom he had
been giving private voice lessons. Her parents had even met Correnti, but they
didn't know he was dating their daughter. She was one of the girls he was
eventually charged with abusing, police said.
"We thought we knew him really well," recalled the band member. "I
considered him a friend. I was going to invite him to my wedding."
Correnti eventually left Action Jackson in August 2000, after clashes with
other members. He rejoined his old band, BS Watson, comprised of a group of
high school friends. They all declined to comment.
Banned from teaching, Correnti had started working at the Sam Goody music
store in Smith Haven Mall. Correnti worked there full-time for about a year, a
According to detectives, judging from the file dates on his computer,
Correnti's online activity spiked after he was forced from the School for
Environmental Studies and less than a year later from Seaford.
Correnti usually hung out in an array of Long Island Internet chat rooms on
AOL. The rooms are labeled by area of interest or geographic locale. Any AOL
user can join and start "chatting" with others. The rooms fill with mostly
teenagers after school.
La Sala, the PTA president, remembered that her daughters once encountered
Correnti online. Wary of them talking to adults on the Internet, she forbade
them from talking to him again. Other students mentioned talking to him online
as well, she said.
Correnti typically made no effort to hide his age, police said. He appealed
to emotionally vulnerable teenagers who were rebelling from their parents and
trying to feel older, detectives said. They often confided in him about their
problems with friends and parents.
Lanning, the retired FBI profiler, pointed out that pedophiles often simply
fulfill a need in their victims for a listening ear, support and affection.
Contrary to popular belief, victims are usually not taken violently,
threatened, or even necessarily duped into relationships, something parents
must confront, he said.
"My mom doesn't understand me. My dad's all over me. I like this kind of
music, and my mother won't let me play it," Lanning said. "Whatever the heck it
is, what you're attempting to do is try to find what the void is, so you can
step in and fill that void," he said of molesters.
Many of Correnti's victims defended him to police and took pains to point
out they were never forced to do anything, detectives said.
Once Correnti established an initial trust, a period Lanning calls
"lowering their inhibitions" usually followed. Pedophiles typically raise the
subject of sex in subtle ways, a little at a time, he said, likening the
practice to an "Internet back rub."
The longest of Correnti's relationships dates back to 1997, when the girl
was 14, police said. He had sex with that girl two years later, police said.
According to his Manhattan indictment, he had sexual encounters with one victim
on 11 different dates, from November 1998 to June 1999. In another case, the
one that finally prompted his arrest after a mother found e-mails from Correnti
to her daughter, Correnti began talking to the girl a year-and-a-half earlier,
when she was 12. He allegedly went to her home in January and sexually abused
her twice while her parents were out.
After the police raid, Correnti was indicted in Suffolk on 52 counts of
sexually abusing and raping five teenage girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17,
and photographing them. He was also indicted in Manhattan on 80 counts of rape,
sodomy and sexual abuse, stemming from the encounters in the band room closet.
The recent Nassau charges grow out of several encounters prosecutors say he
had with a Bellemore girl over two years, beginning when she was 14.
Apparently, Correnti, who went by the screen-name "Singing80s" among
others, needed a way to keep track of the hundreds of teenagers he was
cultivating for relationships, so he began cataloging them on his computer,
Pedophiles often also keep such records as titillating souvenirs, Bisbie
Bisbie, Lanning and others said that the closer in age a perpetrator and
victim are, the more difficult it becomes to classify the relationship in terms
of the degree of manipulation involved. Correnti's case, for example, is
clearly different from that of a 50-year-old abusing a 10-year-old girl, they
Bisbie pointed out, however, that the emotional scarring on a victim is no
Said Bisbie: "He made them feel special, only for them to realize later
that it was only a ruse."