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Park City elementary teacher charged with possessing child pornography

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 13 2014 3:48 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 13 2014 3:48 p.m. MDT

PARK CITY — A teacher at Parley's Park Elementary and area Boy Scout leader is accused of possessing child pornography.

Jose Maria Ardanaz Ezcurdia, 31, was charged Monday in Summit County's 3rd District Court with five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.

Ardanaz was a second grade teacher at the Park City elementary school, 4600 Silver Springs Drive, last school year and was scheduled to teach fifth grade math this year, according to the Park City School District. The school's website also says he teaches Spanish in a dual immersion program.

Ardanaz is also an "avid member and leader of a Scout troop in the Park City area," according to charging documents.

The investigation began several months ago when the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received a tip from the image hosting website Photobucket of a possible child pornography case in Park City. The ensuing investigation led to a search warrant being served on Ardanaz's condominium on Aug. 7. Evidence, including thumb drives containing child pornography, were collected, according to the charges.

Ardanaz was out of the country when the search warrant was executed. He was due to return on Aug. 9 and report back to school on Monday, charging documents state.

Investigators arrested Ardanaz when he returned to Utah Saturday. He was booked into the Summit County Jail and then released after posting $100,000 bail.

The school district issued a statement Wednesday saying that "based on Mr. Ardanaz’s admission to possessing and viewing child pornography," he has been fired.

He is not a U.S. citizen but has a student visa, according to prosecutors. School district officials said Ardanaz went through background checks in Spain and the Utah Office of Education before being allowed to teach here. There was no record of any prior misconduct.

"It's just like dealing with children, you really can't control behaviors. And this was one of those situations," said Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley. "There was never any prior criminal activity that was picked up on."

Conley called Ardanaz a "quality teacher" who was "very loved" by parents, students and faculty. She said she was "saddened" and "shocked" to hear of his arrest.

"It was definitely a surprise to all of us," she said.

Conley said administrators have checked Ardanaz's school issued electronic devices and found no evidence of child pornography. All of his alleged crimes were conducted on his own personal laptops, she said.

Emails were sent to parents of students who were going to have Ardanaz as a teacher this year to explain what had happened. But Conley said most already knew because news of his arrest spread quickly in the community.

She said there is no evidence that any students in the school were harmed.

Ardanaz's initial court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Contributing: Peter Samore

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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