The former primary school teacher who replaced Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list has been arrested in Nicaragua.
Eric Toth, 31, had been on the run since 2008, when he was accused of producing child pornography while teaching at the Beauvoir private primary school in Washington, DC.
Toth was apprehended by Nicaraguan police on Saturday in Esteli, a city 90 miles north of the capital Managua, and close to the Honduran border. He had entered the Central American country illegally using a false passport, and was also carrying a fake driver’s licence and credit cards. He is expected to be extradited to the US in short order.
The former nanny and youth counsellor taught at Beauvoir, a primary school attached to the Washington National Cathedral, for around three years. He was reportedly known for taking an unusual interest in the eight- and nine-year-old boys in his class: tutoring them for free, inviting them to sit on his lap, even babysitting when their parents were away.
In June 2008, one of Toth’s colleagues found sexually explicit photos of a student on a school-owned camera he had been using. Toth had also allegedly installed a hidden video camera in the toilet used by his students. The school authorities confronted him and escorted him from the premises, but by the time the police became involved, he had already left Washington.
Toth fled to his family’s home in Indiana, and from there to Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport in Minnesota, where he left a note in a rented car, claiming to have drowned himself in a nearby lake. With the note, police also found several explicit child pornography images, thought to date to Toth’s time working at a youth summer camp in Wisconsin.
By 2009, he had made it to Phoenix, Arizona, where he volunteered at a homeless shelter and rehabilitation centre under the name David Bussone. He told others at the centre that he had taken a vow of poverty, until someone recognised him from a recent episode of the television programme America’s Most Wanted and alerted the police. Once again, Toth fled.
He was added to the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list in April 2012, following the death of Osama bin Laden. The Bureau claimed he was often described as a “computer expert”, and possessed “above-average knowledge regarding computers, the use of the internet, and security awareness.” It suggested he was could “integrate easily into socio-economic groups”, and offered a $100,000 (£65,000) reward for information leading to his arrest. Places on the Most Wanted list are generally reserved for terrorists and violent criminals, but FBI officials said they included Toth because they believed he posed a particular threat to children.
The Top 10 Most Wanted can expect to see their faces in post offices, bus stops and on billboards across the US. The first list was published in 1950, when J Edgar Hoover was Director of the FBI. Soon after bin Laden’s death, the Bureau was also forced to find a replacement for the notorious Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, who remained at large for 16 years – and occupied a spot on the list for 12 – until he was apprehended in Santa Monica, California in June 2011.