Federal authorities were in town Monday to announce the arrest of a Muncie resident facing sexual exploitation charges.
Darrell Hughes, a counselor with New Castle Community Schools, is accused of giving male students marijuana and alcohol, and taking them to his West Charles Street home, where he allegedly took nude photos of the youths, some with a hidden camera. Some were reportedly given Ecstasy; one said he awoke to find himself being sexually assaulted.
The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett at a noon press conference. Hogsett was joined by Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold, Henry County Prosecutor Joseph Bergacs and other law enforcement officials.
Hogsett called the allegations a “disturbing pattern of predatory behavior from a school official who targeted the most vulnerable young people under his care.”
Federal agent Gary Woolf called the case “particularly troubling given the defendant’s position as a counselor working with at-risk youth,” and said Hughes “betrayed the trust” of “the very children he was supposedly helping.”
A “hidden memory card within a plant in the home’s bathroom” was found in Hughes’ home that depicted a nude minor in the shower.
Hughes was charged in federal court with sexual exploitation and two counts of attempting to sexually exploit a minor. If convicted, he faces at least 15 years in prison.
The investigation apparently began Jan. 15 with a complaint to the New Castle Police Department. Hughes was taken into federal custody last week.
The charges filed against the 55-year-old Hughes in U.S. District Court refer to five victims.
Authorities on Monday urged any other alleged victims to come forward with accounts of their dealings with the school counselor.