x
Breaking News
More () »

WPMT FOX43 | News in Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Lebanon News, Weather, Sports

Special needs teacher at Palmyra High School and volunteer basketball coach charged with solicitation, possession of child porn

Andrew Eberhart, a former basketball star at Cedar Crest and Lebanon Valley College, is accused of posing as a woman on Instagram to solicit nude images from boys
Credit: Lebanon County District Attorney's Office
Andrew Eberhart

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. — A teacher of special needs students volunteer basketball coach has been arrested and charged with solicitation and possession of child pornography, the Lebanon County District Attorney's Office announced Monday.

Andrew Eberhart, 23, of the 1000 block of Challenge Drive, Lebanon, has taught at special needs students at Palmyra High School since graduating from Lebanon Valley College in the spring of 2019, Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess said in a press release.

Eberhart is a former standout basketball player at Cedar Crest and LVC. He is a volunteer basketball coach at Cedar Crest, according to investigators. 

He is accused of posing as an adult woman on Instagram and soliciting juvenile boys to send him nude photos or videos, Hess said.

Credit: Lebanon County District Attorney's Office
Instagram account allegedly used by Andrew Eberhart

Eberhart has been on administrative leave at Palmyra since Jan. 22, when the school district first learned he was the subject of an active criminal investigation, district superintendent Dr. Bernie Kepler said in a statement (the statement appears in full below). 

Eberhart's volunteer status with the basketball team was also revoked on Jan. 22, according to a statement from the Cornwall-Lebanon School District (full statement appears below). 

Eberhart is charged with seven felony counts of sexual abuse of children, one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility, and misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors, according to Hess. 

The investigation began in the fall of 2019, Hess said. At that time, investigators say, police in Manheim Township received a tip from a caller who reported that a person on social media was soliciting and receiving child pornography. 

The person used the Instagram user name "Jordynmatter," the caller reported. The caller also knew that a 13-year-old child sent an explicit photo to this account, investigators say.

Police investigated the report and determined there was a physical address connected to the "Jordynmatter" account, Hess' office said. They traced that address to Eberhart, who lived at the address connected to the account, authorities said.

The electronic information connected to the account also belonged to Eberhart, according to investigators.

Police executed a search warrant on Eberhart's home and seized several electronic devices belonging to him for evidence. A forensic examination of the devices located several images of child pornography, police said.

In an interview with police, Eberhart allegedly admitted to posing as a female on Instagram and soliciting young men to send him naked photos or videos, according to Hess.

He also admitted several of the victims were from Cedar Crest High School and Cedar Crest Middle School, Hess said.

The Lebanon County Detective Bureau identified juvenile males from Lebanon County as victims, according to Hess. Other images depicting child pornography "were either unrecognizable or not of the quality to be identifiable," Hess said.

Both the Cornwall-Lebanon and Palmyra school districts were fully cooperative with investigators and assisted in the identification process, according to Hess.

Investigators notified parents of the alleged victims and interviewed the children that were identified, Hess said. The children confirmed they sent nude photos and explicit videos via Instagram, believing they were sending the images to a woman. 

"Jordynmatter" was "relentless" in requests for the photos, and would send nude images of a female to elicit a response from the victims, investigators say.

A second Instagram profile, "maciejefferson12," which also appeared to be an adult woman, was also used in the alleged solicitation of nude images, investigators said.

Eberhart was arrested Monday. 

"Solicitors and possessors of child pornography prey upon the innocence of our children," Hess said in the press release. "These individuals victimize very young children for their own devices. I take the protection of our children and our community seriously, and we will prosecute this case vigorously."

Here is the full statement issued by the Palmyra School District:

"On Wednesday morning, January 22, 2020, the Palmyra Area School District was shocked to learn that an active criminal investigation was being conducted involving Andrew Eberhart, teacher at Palmyra Area Middle School. 

"Upon receiving the notification, the school district has been cooperating fully with the law enforcement investigation. Mr. Eberhart was immediately placed on administrative leave. It is our understanding that Andrew Eberhart was taken into custody earlier today, Monday, March 2, 2020. 

"Further questions regarding the investigation and/or related criminal charges should be directed to the law enforcement agency(ies) conducting the investigation. 

"To the best of our knowledge, the victims of Mr. Eberhart’s actions were not students of the Palmyra Area School District. 

"The Palmyra Area School District conducts thorough background checks on all employees; including Pennsylvania State Police Clearance, Pennsylvania Child Abuse Clearance and an FBI Federal Criminal History Clearance. Individuals, at the time of potential hire, who have violations that preclude them from employment are not considered as candidates. 

"Mr. Eberhart, at the time of hire, had clearances that made him eligible for employment."

Dr. Bernie Kepler, Superintendent

The Cornwall-Lebanon School District released a statement Monday. It reads:

"Cornwall-Lebanon School District has hundreds of individuals who serve as volunteers and chaperones assisting students and teachers on a daily basis. 

"All of these volunteers have completed thorough background checks in order to be permitted by law to interact with students in a school setting or during District events and activities. We are grateful for their contributions to student success.

"On January 22, 2020, Cornwall-Lebanon School District was informed of a criminal investigation involving Andrew Eberhart, who served as a volunteer in our District. Mr. Eberhart’s volunteer status was revoked immediately. As this is an ongoing criminal matter, we cannot comment further on the situation. The District will continue to cooperate fully with the local authorities.

"We appreciate the efforts of the District Attorneys’ Office and County Detectives and their commitment to protecting our children. We share that commitment. This is a very disturbing matter that has an impact on the entire CLSD community. Our school counselors are available to all students and adults in our schools."

-- Superintendent Philip Domencic