BOSTON, MASS – A Boston man pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with surreptitiously filming boys in the restrooms at Boston Latin School (BLS).
Eric Tran Thai, 36, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of child pornography. Thai was arrested on March 11, 2019 by criminal complaint and indicted later that month. U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for May 13, 2021.
According to the charging documents, on Feb. 6 and Feb. 27, 2018, two separate Boston College students reported to the police that they had been videotaped without their knowledge or consent while they were using the men’s restrooms on the Boston College campus. Following the Feb. 27, 2018, report, police located and spoke with Thai on campus. Thai was placed under arrest on state charges and his bag was subsequently searched; in it, police found several covert camera devices, including faux smoke detectors, a water bottle containing a small cube recording device, and a pair of sunglasses outfitted with a built-in camera. Those charges are currently pending in Middlesex County Superior Court.
Following Thai’s arrest, a search of his home was executed where dozens of devices including computer hard drives, thumb drives, covert and regular cameras, computers, iPads, cell phones and multiple SD and Sim cards were recovered. Investigators found several electronic folders labeled BU, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern, Bunker Hill, Boston Latin High School, and several different malls, airports and foreign country locations. Thai was charged federally for the child pornography located in the Boston Latin folders, which contained approximately 45 surreptitiously-recorded videos of male students in various states of dress using the urinals and stalls in the boys’ bathroom. The videos appear to have been created on approximately 10 separate dates between February and December 2017, all after school hours.
In general, the videos show Thai sitting in a bathroom stall at Boston Latin High School recording individuals in adjacent stalls or at the urinals through various secret recording methods. In some videos, Thai appears to hold a camera over the top of the partition between the bathroom stalls and videotaping from overhead. In other instances, he appears to hide a small camera inside of his backpack, place the backpack on the bathroom floor and videotape individuals in the adjacent bathroom stall from under the stall’s partition. While recording, it appears that Thai would simultaneously view what the camera was recording on a cellphone or a tablet device in his possession.
The charges of possession of child pornography provide for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a minimum of five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. According to the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence of between 108 and 180 months in prison. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan; Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross; and Boston College Police Chief William B. Evans made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Paruti, Lelling’s Project Safe Childhood Coordinator and Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Unit, is prosecuting the case.
The case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. In 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.