Florida National College's Manuel Mares traded child porn, FBI says

Manuel Mares was one of the more popular faculty members at Hialeah's Florida National College. During graduation speeches, students made sure to thank the 56-year-old academic advisor and former business professor for his mentoring. He worked in the criminal justice department and in September appeared on a Miami-Dade police radio program — 1490 AM's The Human Side — to brag about the for-profit college.

But in mid-November, says school president and CEO Maria Regueiro, Mares suddenly disappeared. After several days, she attempted to file a missing-person report. That's when Regueiro discovered that the FBI had arrested Mares. Not until she spoke with Riptide last week did she learn the full scope of the disturbing accusations against him.

Federal agents followed a digital trail to Mares's email inbox. According to a federal indictment, the advisor had used the email address zorroboy07@aol.com to trade child porn with cyberbuds between July 2010 and August 2011. The videos included footage of a boy under the age of 12 molested with a sex toy. Another showed a boy "with his hands and feet bound together behind his back with rope," according to the indictment, while being sexually assaulted.

On November 17, agents executed a search warrant on Mares's Southwest Miami-Dade home — where he had lived with his mother until she died a year ago — and found more child-rape smut on his MacBook Pro laptop. He was charged with possession of child pornography and released on $100,000 bond. He did not respond to messages left on his cell and home phones and has not yet entered a plea in the case or hired an attorney.

Hindsight gives Mares's hobby — photography — a new creepiness. His website, Mares Photography, shows shots of mostly children, including many of boys swimming in bathing suits. The photos date back to 2006.

"That's awful," Regueiro says when told the details of Mares's case. She points out that Florida National College's students are predominantly over the age of 18. "If there was a dark side, fortunately we never saw it."

 
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