Child porn charges for Boy Scouts leader prompt question about 2017 incident

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SANDUSKY, Ohio (WTVG) - What other instance preceded an Ohio Boy Scouts leader being charged with photographing kids getting undressed in Erie County?

Those charges were announced late last week.

But there's one part of the case raising questions from 2017.

The federal complaint talks briefly about a 2017 incident that scout leaders made federal authorities aware of in August.

The man facing those child pornography is Thomas Close. He was a Boy Scouts leader from Shelby in Richland County.

He's accused of taking pictures of the boys changing at the now former YMCA in Sandusky. The facility closed earlier this year because of financial issues.

Close took his scouts there for aquatic training. That's when federal authorities say he was taking pictures of the boys with a hidden camera.

When the feds were tipped off to this earlier this year, a Boy Scouts executive presented them with a 2017 incident report documenting an incident at a Lorain county campground. That was a complaint made by a den leader regarding Close. The federal complaint says scout leaders spoke to Close about the Lorain County incident and said if another incident like this happened again he'd be fired.

So far no details of that incident have been released by scout leadership.

In a written statement here is what leadership out of Cleveland said about that incident:

"Let me assure you that this incident was both thoroughly reviewed at the time and the appropriate action was taken." That statement was from Marc Ryan with the Lake Erie Council.

13abc has not been told exactly what that incident entailed.

In the federal complaint, Close admitted to putting the camera in the changing areas in that Sandusky YMCA. He said he'd been collecting those videos from 2011 until this most recent summer. He also told investigators he'd been collecting child pornography since he was 16 years old.

Full statement from Boy Scouts Lake Erie Council:
Dear LEC Scouting Family,
Let me begin by apologizing for not being able to communicate sooner. It has always been my approach to be immediately responsive with the hope that you would hear both good and bad news directly from the council if possible. Unfortunately, a set of evolving circumstances prevented us from a mass distribution prior to yesterday evening.

By now, you are likely aware that yesterday a former adult member was arrested and charged in federal court with production of child pornography. We were disturbed to learn about and condemn these charges. Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members and we take these charges very seriously. Upon learning of the investigation by Homeland Security, we removed this individual and prohibited him from any future participation in our programs.
In addition, you have likely seen mention of an incident that occurred in June of 2017. Let me assure you that this incident was both thoroughly reviewed at the time and the appropriate action was taken. While that incident was different in scope and kind to this case, in our determination and efforts to fulfill our commitment to protecting our youth and to fully cooperate with the authorities, we were able to provide information to Homeland Security that resulted in criminal charges.

The Boy Scouts of America seeks to prevent child abuse through comprehensive policies and procedures to serve as barriers to abuse. These include a thorough screening process for adult leaders and staff, criminal background checks, requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during Scouting activities, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse.

Anyone with any information on potential abuse should contact authorities to ensure the safety of our youth, in and out of Scouting. For more information about the BSA’s youth protection policies, please visit bsayouthprotection.org.

We are committed to providing ongoing support to victims and their families, including counseling. We want to help victims heal, on their own terms, with a professional counselor of their choice. Through the ScoutsFirst Helpline, the Boy Scouts of America offers assistance with counseling to any youth member, former youth member, or the family of any youth member who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting. To reach the ScoutsFirst Helpline, call (844)- Scouts1 or 844-726-8871, or email scouts1st@scouting.org.

In addition, if you have specific questions about this case, please contact Homeland Security at 216-749-9602. As this matter is ongoing, they are the only ones who are able to provide answers to our questions. Know that we continue to cooperate with law enforcement as they investigate this matter.

Yours in service to youth and families,
Marc J. Ryan
Scout Executive / CEO
Lake Erie Council, Boy Scouts of America