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Long IslandCrime

Massapequa High School teacher pleads guilty to possessing child pornography

Joseph Zanco of Massapequa arrives at federal court

Joseph Zanco of Massapequa arrives at federal court in Central Islip on Thursday.  Credit: James Carbone

A man who taught physics at Massapequa High School for more than a decade pleaded guilty Thursday to child pornography charges in federal court in Central Islip.

Joseph Zanco, 44, of Massapequa, told U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco that “I knew that [it] was wrong,” in pleading guilty to one count of transporting child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Zanco said that the sexually explicit material involved girls under the age of 18. Downloading child pornography is considered transporting the material under federal law.

Zanco, who is scheduled to be sentenced in September, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 5 years in federal prison and could theoretically face up to 20 years.

Zanco, who taught in the district for 12 years, was suspended without pay after he was arrested by federal agents in August.

“It’s a tragedy,” Zanco’s attorney, Alan Nelson of Lake Success, said afterward. “He has taught and mentored hundreds of students. But he accepts full responsibility” and is undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Eastern District federal prosecutor Michael Maffei declined to comment afterward.

In April, Zanco began to download “hundreds of images of child pornography” to the storage feature on his Google account, according to prosecutors in court papers. Following federal law and company policy, Google officials suspended Zanco’s account and notified law enforcement, the prosecutors said.

Agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement subsequently searched Zanco’s Google account, as well as his laptop computer and cellphone, where they found the child pornography, prosecutors said.

In a statement sent to the district’s parents and guardians Thursday, and copied to Newsday, Massapequa Superintendent Lucille Iconis said that the Justice Department had informed the district of Zanco’s plea. 

Further, Iconis said, the U.S. Attorney's Office had indicated “that no Massapequa students were identified in the materials secured and reviewed in connection with this investigation. The District cooperated with law enforcement authorities throughout their investigation. Mr. Zanco has been on administrative leave with no access to students, staff, or District facilities since April of 2018 when the District was notified of the investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

Until he is sentenced, Bianco continued Zanco's $300,000 bond under conditions that also require him to be confined to his home and monitored by an electronic bracelet.

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