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Former Massapequa High teacher sentenced on child porn charges

Former Massapequa High School teacher Joseph Zanco arrives

Former Massapequa High School teacher Joseph Zanco arrives at federal court in Central Islip on Tuesday where a judge sentenced him to five years in prison on child pornography charges, officials said. Credit: James Carbone

A former Massapequa High School physics teacher was sentenced in Central Islip federal court Tuesday to five years in prison, the mandatory minimum, for uploading  and possessing hundreds of images of child pornography, officials said.

Joseph Zanco, 45, of Massapequa, was also sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Joseph Bianco to seven years of supervised release following his imprisonment. He must register as a sex offender and cannot have unsupervised contact with minors.

Zanco pleaded guilty in April 2019 to one count of transporting child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography

“As a licensed teacher, Zanco had a mandatory obligation to report crimes against children, and today he was punished for doing just the opposite: perpetuating their victimization by his transportation and possession of child pornography,” said Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Before he was sentenced, Zanco, his voice breaking, said: "Every step I take is part of the punishment I must go through.”

Zanco, who taught in the Massapequa school district for 12 years, was suspended without pay after his arrest by federal agents in August 2018. He resigned in May 2019, district officials said.

His attorney, Alan Nelson, of Lake Success, said afterward that the judge’s sentence was “fair.” Eastern District Assistant United States Attorney Michael Maffei declined to comment,

Although he could have sentenced Zanco to more than 10 years in prison and strongly condemned his actions, Judge Bianco said he was sentencing him to the minimum allowed under law because he seemed genuinely remorseful; had not disseminated any material and the physicians who examined him determined it unlikely that he would ever commit such a crime again.

In April 2018, Zanco began to upload  hundreds of images of child pornography to the storage feature on his Google account, prosecutors said. Following federal law and company policy, Google officials suspended Zanco’s account and notified law enforcement, prosecutors said.

Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement subsequently searched Zanco’s Google account where they found the child pornography, prosecutors said. Additional images and videos containing child pornography were recovered from Zanco’s cellphone and laptop computer, prosecutors said.

“Zanco, a man who was entrusted to teach our youth, violated that trust by engaging in the transmission and possession of child pornography,” said Peter Fitzhugh, special agent-in-charge of the New York office of Homeland Security Investigations.

This prosecution was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.

With Robert E. Kessler

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