Eric Justin Toth, the former D.C. elementary school teacher and accused child pornographer who replaced Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, has been found in Nicaragua, according to people familiar with the case.
Toth had been on the run for almost five years. He fled after officials at Washington National Cathedral’s exclusive Beauvoir elementary school found explicit photos of a student on a camera assigned to him, authorities said.
Toth, 31, was taken into custody Saturday night in Nicaragua, but as of Monday afternoon he had not been extradited to the United States, said the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Toth was not yet in the country.
The FBI declined to comment.
Police have been looking for Toth since June 2008, when Beauvoir officials found the explicit photos, confronted him and then had him escorted to the end of the cathedral driveway.
They called police that day, but Toth was already gone.
The school said Monday that officials there were told by federal authorities that Toth had been arrested.
“We commend the work of the Office of the U.S. Attorney and the FBI for their ongoing efforts to apprehend Mr. Toth,” school officials said in a statement. “They have been tenacious and resolute in their quest to bring this case to justice.”
Last year, the FBI upgraded Toth from a local most-wanted list and named him one of the country’s most notorious fugitives. His face was plastered on bus stops and billboards in the Washington area and nationwide, including in Manhattan’s Times Square.
At the time, FBI officials said they gave Toth such treatment because they thought that he was a threat to children and that the description of him — thin, 6-foot-3, green eyes and a mole under his left eye — might be enough to help someone identify him.
It took about a year from that time until the weekend, when authorities caught up with him in Central America.
Toth had been a third-grade teacher at Beauvoir for three years.
He is accused of taking sexually explicit photographs of a boy at the victim’s home in the summer of 2007, according to the FBI and court documents.
He also is accused of installing a video camera in his third-grade class’s bathroom and using it to record his students.
Toth has been indicted on charges of producing child pornography. Warrants have been issued for his arrest in the District and in Maryland, and some of the charges have been sealed.
Some Beauvoir parents have said the teacher sometimes spent nights in his classroom closet and lavished attention on certain 8- and 9-year-old boys, holding them on his lap.
The parents said it was common knowledge that Toth was entwined in the lives of Beauvoir students — particularly male students — and sometimes in unusual ways. He babysat and tutored them, at times for free. He slept at their houses as a babysitter when parents were away and was a guest at one boy’s home for weeks.
Toth was born in Fairfax County and grew up in Indiana, according to the FBI. He studied at Cornell University before earning his undergraduate degree in education from Purdue University.
Toth has worked as a nanny, teaching assistant and youth counselor.
The FBI has tracked some of his movements since the June 2008 day school officials found his camera with explicit photos. That afternoon, he withdrew cash in Arlington County and arrived the next day at his family’s home in Hammond, Ind., where he stayed for a day or two.
The next day, he bought a cellphone and Global Positioning System device from a Circuit City store in Madison, Wis, authorities said. A day later, he drove a Honda sedan to a long-term parking lot at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Inside the car, he left a bogus suicide note indicating that police could find his body in a nearby lake.
On Aug. 1, 2008, officials noticed the Honda had exceeded the allowable number of days in the parking area. They found the note, as well as explicit images police say might date to his time at a summer camp in Wisconsin.
A year later, Toth turned up in Phoenix at a homeless shelter and rehabilitation facility. He used the name David Bussone, a man he met in Phoenix, and told people at the shelter that he had taken a vow of poverty and that he was living a spartan life.
He was volunteering there as a tutor when someone who had seen him featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” called police. Toth vanished before officers arrived.